Living With Death

His death had rocked her hard. They had just started to talk about what retirement might look like in 10 more years–and then he was gone. I had just started working with her on her self esteem when she asked me to go to the funeral with her that day. She just wanted to feel a bit more solid. She faintly trusted me when I told her that even feelings this bad would eventually pass, like they all do.

His life had been pleasant if not exciting, so there it was at least a funeral where the sentiments expressed at the podium all felt sincere. Her part was made harder by the fact that none of her small family were able to make it over from Europe. She also hadn’t been here long enough to establish the deep sort of friendships that help one through things like this. His friends were great, but in truth she felt largely alone, with me being a strange exception.

When it came time to speak she stood there at the podium and she met her commitments, but she found the whole experience wracked and painful. She was grateful she wasn’t overly religious–the entire process had not taken long. She asked if we could walk. I too felt like being under a big sky. The whole day felt like a hug you never wanted. The feelings were too big for words for a long time, so we drive to the river valley and parked and headed down a trail.

We walked down by a little lake. Finally, she asked what she could do to stop the hurting. I looked at her genuinely confused. I explained that the hurt was the other side of the love. They were inextricable. If she took the pain away then she would have needed a history where she didn’t love her husband. It is possible to be relieved when someone dies, but this was not one of those cases.

I asked why she didn’t want the pain. She thought it was a bizarre question, which I realised from her perspective it would be. She’s just started with me, so she thinks she wants to increase her happiness and decrease her sadness, when what she’s really looking for doesn’t do that. It makes you feel the same way about your happiness as you do about your sadness. Rather than liking the good parts, you value it all.

I explained that she chose an identity of a woman who’d lost her husband and it hurt. I felt that was suitable. If the universe gave you the capacity to experience emotional pain like that, I suggested that the death of a beloved loved one was maybe the most suitable time possible to get that feeling out of your quiver of feelings.

I was sorry the pain was stabbing, but that’s how that feeling operates. Far from living wrong, I thought the pain was a sign of her health. She seemed to be right where one would feel it was appropriate or natural for her to be. When she asked what she was supposed to do with the pain, I told her to feel it; to know it. I told her that the more she understood it, the more valuable she would be to people in similar situations in the future.

I explained that knowing the pain didn’t make it worse, it made her wiser. Crying at the death of a loved one is wise. So is being stoic if that’s how you naturally unfold. The point is, of course there would be a reaction of some kind. Accept that. And know that it won’t last. That it’s just the suitable feelings for the context, just as a raincoat suits rain.

She told me that simply knowing there was no answer had actually taken a layer of suffering away. I explained that what she had removed was the illusory layer of suffering that her mind layered over top of the pain. Now that she had gotten rid of the voluntary stuff, it made it easier to handle the mandatory pain. Plus she felt stronger, which was a nice feeling.

It’s going to take some time for her to go through this. She’ll do it in stages as everyone does. She would need build a new mindset to be a single woman with new challenges. And then one day someone will really need her, and she’ll know just the right thing to say to them and they’ll be so relieved, or maybe grateful. And then she’ll realise that this experience is what taught her the wisdom she shared. Our cracks truly are where our brightest light escapes.

Don’t offer resistance to painful experiences. They pass more quickly with less resistance, and you can learn a great deal by travelling through them. Some are simply awful, and if you’re experiencing one right now I am so sorry and I love you. But you too will get through it, and you too will live to laugh again. But in the meantime, you’re going to be collecting some of the most hard-fought wisdom a person gets in their lifetime. Big hug.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Wisdom of Elders

The boy came down the pier, dragging a stick along the slats of the deck. Click, click, click. He was sullen, looking down, and his grandfather was as still as a bird, so the boy was surprised to suddenly come upon him sitting there on an Adirondack chair. His grandfather smiles.

“What are you doing?” the boy asks.

“Sittin’.”

“I’m bored too.”

“I’m not bored. I’m sittin’.”

The boy gives him a withering look.  “I hate it here. Mom won’t even let me bring my XBox out.”

His grandfather looks out at the grand view across the lake. To the right were the long reeds he and his brother would hide in to scare each other. Or just past that, the long winding area where they tried spearfishing the first time. Or way out, where his oldest brother would shoot golf balls and he and his other brothers and sisters would dive for them. He smiled.

The boy’s voice chimes in. “There’s nothing to do out here.”

“What’s wrong with just bein’?”

“What?”

“Being. What’s wrong with just bein’?”

The boy’s looking at the old man like he’s legitimately crazy. “You can’t just ‘be’ grandpa.”

“You can’t, eh?” His grandpa smiles. “Okay. You wanna do something? How about a boat ride?”

The boy looks over at his grandpa’s boat. Maybe in 1970 it was a streamlined beauty loaded with power, but by the boy’s standards it looked more like a rowboat than something cool people might ride in. He reluctantly accepts a life jacket from his grandfather and they climb in. They cruise for a short while. Over the minor roar of the little engine, the boy yells, “Where are we going?”

His grandfather looks at him and smiles. “Nowhere.” And it actually seems like that’s a pretty decent answer to the boy too.

Eventually the engine cuts and the boat glides into a gorgeous little bay. The grandfather handles the boat with great experience, and soon he’s spun it into position where they have a beautiful view of the incredible shoreline. It looks the same as it has for as long as the grandfather can remember. “Why did you stop here?” the boy asks.

The man takes a long time looking out at the shore, and the trees. A deer picks its way through the moss for a drink. “This is where your father and I used to come to fish.” This information instantly arrests the boy’s attention. There is a long pause.

“You came here with Dad?” He’s almost reverent. Suddenly the whole place seems much more interesting to him.

“Yeah. It was our little spot. This is where I hid him from his mother too.” He winks at the boy, who in turn feels good about the idea of being anything anything like his father.

The boy hangs his hand in the water. “Did you guys catch lots of fish here?”

The grandpa smiles broadly. “No…. No, it turned out this was a terrible place for fishing.”

“So why did you keep coming here?” the boy asked.

“We just like bein’ here.” The boy takes yet another look around, this time even more interested, as though maybe he missed something on his first two looks.“Your Dad, he liked keeping busy out here. He was always playing cowboys and indians with his brother in the reeds, or they were water skiing, or diving for golf balls, or hunting for bird nests, or catching salamanders.”

“What’s a salamander?”

“It’s a lizard-lookin’ thing. Lives mostly in the water.”

The kid looks into the dark lake and then extracts his hand from it gingerly. “How big are they?”

His grandpa shrugs. “Big as this boat maybe.” The boy’s eyes bug out and the grandfather laughs. He holds his hands to indicate the animal was actually the size of a cob of corn. The boy relaxes. “When your Dad was tired of doin’ things, we’d come down here and just be.”

The boy looks at the shore yet again, still wondering what he’s looking for. His grandfather continues. “When we came here it was because you wanted to do something. But now you know this place was special to your father. And neither one of us are ever gonna see him again.” They both fight back a tear. “That’s a sad thing. But it’s still a good thing being here, isn’t it?”

The boy looks back at the shore for a good long time before turning back to his grandfather. “I like it here.”

“Me too. I don’t like doin’ anything when I’m here. I don’t even pretend to fish anymore. But even though it’s a little bit sad sometimes, I really like bein’ here anyway.”

The boy thinks a long moment. He eventually settles in with a nice view of the shore. “Yeah. Me too. This is a good place to be.” And they sat like that for about three hours, totally silent, just being.

Later, they got back and docked the boat and walked up the lawn to a few hundred yards to the cottage, where a dreamcatcher caught the setting sun in a window. His mother came out drying her hands. “What were you two doing all this time? I was worried.”

“We weren’t doing anything,” the boy said.

The mother looks at her own father with suspicion. “You can’t have been doing just ‘nothing….'”

The boy reasserts, “We were. We were just bein’.”

His mother’s brow furrows. What are these two hiding… “Being…?”

“Yeah,” the boy offers. “Mom.?”

“What?”

“Do we have any containers good for holding salamanders?”

“Salamanders?!?!” His mother squeals. The boy looks over at his grandfather, beaming at the prospect of freaking out his mother with a ‘lizard.’ His grandfather smiles back, remembering he and his brothers doing the same to their sister. As he heads into the boathouse to return the two lifejackets he looks back at his grandson, now beaming with potential. He winks. The boy smiles and winks back. He is gonna be just fine.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

A Celebrated Departure

I recently got a call from a student. She’s a very emotional person and she called shortly after she had just put down her beloved cat, the same one that took her through puberty and all of the major events of her 20’s, including her parent’s divorce, a family suicide, an addiction, a recovery, and eventually the woman’s own divorce.

Those are some of the most tumultuous years in life and the cat was connected to countless major memories. This is precisely the sort of thing that would have heavily derailed the woman previously, but this call wasn’t one about agony and it wasn’t a call for help, it was more a call of communion. This was a call about love.

The death would have been a completely devastating experience if viewed from an egocentric me-first perspective. She would have missed the cat terribly and missing something is a verb; it’s an action. That’s the act of wishing the cat would still there even though she’d know it wasn’t, but she wasn’t experiencing the pain of wanting. This woman has learned how to take the peaceful path through life and instead of the pain of wanting she felt the joy of love.

994-relax-and-succeed-keep-your-hands-openThe call I got was to share that love. She knew very few people would know how to respond. She didn’t want sympathy or commiseration–those are well-intentioned acts by others but they take the person back to thinking about the life in a wanting and painful way and what this woman wanted was a celebration of the cat’s life and she knew I would understand that. If anything, she felt a tiny flicker of guilt that it didn’t hurt more.

This isn’t to say the act itself wasn’t extremely sad–it very much was–but that pain didn’t last past the moment of transition because she was not attached to the cat with wanting thoughts, instead she was able to love the cat clearly enough to let it go. When she felt the cat’s body go limp she knew the spirit had left the animal to make its next move. Rather than agonise over its departure she was celebrating its existence. She was lucky to have had her.

In the little version of life there is a little dash of life between two great darknesses. In the big version of life it’s all light, it’s merely where in the universe is that light currently shining? She wasn’t upset because he cat was gone because to her it simply wasn’t–it was merely done its time with her. She understood that limitation as one of hers, not one of the cat’s.

994-relax-and-succeed-we-are-not-human-beingsTo illustrate what she did differently than most people consider your morning coffee. The sides of the cup represent an inside and an outside; an alive and a “dead.” We could say that those sides are created by our own sense of self. The woman accepts that her human existence is on a timeline and so is the cat’s, which means right from the outset there will be times where they do not overlap. On a spiritual level she knows they are one, but by she accepts that within human existence part of the deal is accepting the fact that both she and the cat are free. If the cat’s ready to move on she has to love it enough to let it go. She cannot be attached through her thinking, she must accept its will.

In this way the cat’s life is consumed by the woman. Like the coffee surrounded by the cup the life isn’t lost, it is absorbed. It is taken in. It becomes one with the woman. So can you see that it makes no sense for her to keep drinking when the coffee is gone? She cannot have the cat because the cat is already fully within her. And rather than agonise that the cat is gone she is grateful that she was able to drink it in while it was there. The cat’s life was not squandered, it was fully appreciated. From a spiritual perspective that is like living forever.

Death is profound and yet it is also very simple. It is our mental attachments that make it feel daunting and sad and personal to our egos, but if we live in a deeply spiritual way we can see death more as a release or completion–as though it is a song that has been sung. A song that must now move off into the universe to be heard by some lucky new listener.

Live openly. Listen to the universe for love. No matter what your circumstances, some is always there to be heard.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Value of Caring

What is the value of death? Of funerals? Is there a way to experience these tragic events and draw strength, resiliency, connection, love?

951 Relax and Succeed - Stop and take a momentI was at the funeral of an out-law family member this week. He learned as a relatively young man that he had been dealt a difficult hand which would prevent him from leading a full and involved life. This reduction in his capacity for involvement was always a very painful experience for his family. Everyone always wished more for his future.

Deaths like this can be tricky. I’m sure many came to the funeral concerned about how it might feel. There were certainly people that could have tilted the entire experience toward something really depressing–something that circled and focused on all that was missed. But that wasn’t what happened. In fact, the exact opposite happened. It was one of the most inspiring funerals I had ever attended.

Eulogies are difficult to write at the best of times and this was to be a celebration of a life unlived. The difficult job, given to the eldest, was taken with grace. When many would have hidden behind quotes and scriptures and platitudes, instead she dove into the heart of it and there she found her gold. It was her words that opened everyone’s eyes and hearts.

951 Relax and Succeed - Do small things with great loveThe value of a funeral is in what the life can teach the rest of us. That’s how their spirit is passed on; when we inform our lives by the lessons provided by theirs. In that way we literally make them a part of ourselves. And yet some lives do such a bad job of lining up with society that the presumption is that they are failures and that they have nothing to offer. All the check-boxes are ticked off and no one gives it any real thought. It’s just a shame.

But then a sister takes a deep hard loving look and she’s surprised by what she sees. She’s further surprised that she’s surprised because as she sits with the knowledge she realises that some part of her always knew it–just like everyone in that room subconsciously knew it: the deceased was never seen to be suffering. Yes he experienced pain but he never dwelled there. The person everyone perceived as having a sad life had actually always been happy.

It’s a strange thing for everyone to miss isn’t it? No one actually missed it, but no one at the time every gave it the value it deserved; we were all too focused on what was missing. Everyone else was focused on what was missing his life. He didn’t mind because he never noticed; he was too focused on caring about all of our lives.

951 Relax and Succeed - For everything you have missedI remember going to the funeral of an extremely wealthy man who I had grown very close to and the saddest part about it was that I didn’t hear anyone talking about him the way he told me he wished they would. He wanted to be seen as being a person who people liked because he personally left them feeling better than he found them. Put another way, the billionaire wished he could have given people the feeling that the man with the “sad” life got to give. So in the end whose life was rich?

The billionaire was a good man and his life meant a lot to me due to the many poignant conversations we had about life, but even he said that the lesson of his life was to avoid the choices he made because they were external and hollow. He wanted people to remember him as someone nice. He wanted himself remembered the way we’ll all remember Ray: as a guy who was always smiling and was always genuinely interested in how you were. And when you stop to really think about it, it’s just amazing what that’s worth.

Rest in Peace Ray.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

A Brighter Light

Gifts can arrive in such unlikely packages. A friend mine is the sort of person who makes you instantly smile when you recall him. In fact, he himself has an absolutely infectious smile. He’s kind, intelligent, he’s extremely enjoyable company, he’s a loving soul and he is quite simply what my father would call a good man. There is no higher praise from my father.

809 Relax and Succeed - SunriseToday my heart broke for my friend. Because my father is my hero and my friend just lost his. We spoke a bit about his home and his life when we met a few years ago. It was clear that he had an understanding of what his father had given him throughout life. And I knew he must have given him a great deal because that is the only way to become a good man. To have people who truly and deeply believe in you.

The friend and I met doing business with each other and became friendly based on his warmth. That warmth showed through when he recently posted a quote in relation to his father’s passing. I read quotes all day–they’re what this blog is about: breaking down the quotes to deeper meanings. But today my friend introduced me to what very well may be the most beautiful quote I have ever seen in my life.

I’m well aware of Tagore, I’m interested in his work and yet somehow–remarkably–this quote about the lamp eluded me. It is quite simply the most elegant, graceful and accurate description of death I have ever seen. Indeed, for every student of mine I’ve taught I have urged them to do what I saw tribal Fijians do when I was very young man.

809 Relax and Succeed - Death is not extinguishing the lightWhile my friends caught a nap I ended up on what was supposed to be a short side-trip with a local, that ended up being an education into the rituals of dying. I had thought I was at a celebration because I was. This was no funeral. This was described to me and it certainly looked like more of party. It was like Thanksgiving but for a person.

Everyone was celebrating the person’s existence and they expressed their gratitude for what that person had given them. It will be a painful process, but I do hope my friend is able to stay in touch with that very sentiment. Because his father gave him one of the greatest gifts a father can give a son: the gift of character. His son’s lives will be forever bettered by that gift and the light of their father will always shine because of it.

The reason I love the quote is that–for the person we love the light never really feels like it changes. As the full light of morning strikes we can stop telling ourselves a story in the darkness of individuality and instead we can become one again with everything.  And who among us would not move toward this brighter light? Who among us cannot appreciate the incredible infinite beauty of an expanding sunrise over the limitations of the lamp?

This is not a death. To the real soul it is a type of awakening. Truly a dawn. It is those of us left behind who cast our thoughts into the deepest darkest reaches of loss. But for my friend’s father, he has finally moved to the only place immense enough to express all of the infinite love he feels for his wife and children now that he is truly free.

With love and tears, s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

The Friday Dose #81

We lost two giants last week. Two men with immense capacities for compassion. Most people know Dr. Oliver Sachs thanks to the film about him entitled Awakenings with Robert Deniro and in which Dr. Sachs is played by Robin Williams. Sachs was quite a character, having had an unusual life that included everything from setting weight-lifting records to being a best-selling author. The brilliant program RadioLab recently did a piece on Sachs once he knew his cancer had spread and the would soon be dying. It’s a lesson and grace that we can all learn from:

Dr. Oliver Sachs Faces His Own Death

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Next of course is Wayne Dyer. Wayne’s a legend in the transformational community and from my personal perspective, one of the clearest writers on the subject. Marianne Williamson’s (A Course in Miracles) prayer is so beautiful and thorough that I feel no need to add anything else. I wish every life was celebrated in this way:

We will all come to pass. Our days are limited and they are filled with potential. Use up as much of your own as you are able because there is no prize at the end–it’s the living that’s the prize.

Have a wonderful weekend.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Father’s Day

This past Father’s Day felt different for me. Anyone who reads me knows my Dad’s been my hero since my first trip to Australia. My Aunt and Uncle had such positive views of my parents, and I respected my Aunt and Uncle so much that I began to reconsider who my parents might be—not as my parents—but as individual people living their own lives.

712 Relax and Succeed - Life is too ironicI’ll be forever thankful to particularly my Aunt Ev who did such a great job of helping me to learn to recognize those qualities in all adults. She also did a great job of explaining some of the challenges of adulthood that too-often kids assume are things about them rather than about adulthood. That was the beginning of my father becoming my hero.

As I’ve written in these pages, Dad had a massive brain injury of his own when I was young and he was not expected to live the night. Two weeks later he was out of a coma, slowly regained his memory and his brain became a subject of debate between me and a very talented neuroscientist.

Because it was well-before the 2000’s the prevailing wisdom was that, because brain cells didn’t replace themselves in the same way they do in the rest of the body, this lead everyone to conclude that the brain didn’t change. It does grow new cells, but there was no recognition of other changes. I knew the brain had what is now called neuroplasticity and that it can and did change all the time. Her beliefs lead her to the conclusion that my father would get worse. I was young then and I couldn’t explain very well at the time how I knew for sure, but I assured her that my father would improve and that the brain does grow and change, and those two things are now known to both be true.

712 Relax and Succeed - It is not joy that makes us gratefulThe funny thing is, even though the doctors that night told Mom and I that Dad wouldn’t make it, and even though his head was this weird shiny smooth pumpkin of bruises and tubes, and there was nothing recognizable about his head, I was still entirely sure he would be fine. I literally had zero worry for him—I was more concerned about how my Mom was. But this year—after his last fall, that actually frightened me. That brought time into focus. I try not to think about time, but for Mom and Dad I’ll do anything.

I may get 20 more Father’s Day with my Dad. But I also know that he’s way past the national average for age and so this year’s could also be our last. An acute sense of that had Dad glowing in the dark this year. My parents have always been so precious to me but I have modelled myself after my father. And the idea of living without him terrifies me. But I happily go toward that terror because I know by facing my fears I will be making him even more precious and that will make us even closer.

My Dad has this one particular skill. He can be fully invested in you. This means that if you are in front of him and you’re angry about how you can’t stand Mark, and that Mark is the reason for all of your pain and suffering, my Dad would not join you in attacking Mark. But he would support you completely as you attacked Mark. He would be genuinely sorry you were in pain and he wouldn’t argue with you about Mark. You would get full empathy from him.712 Relax and Succeed - I never had a policy

Now, if my Dad went to see Mark and Mark told the opposite story—the one where you’re the jerk—then again—my Dad would not join in on any bashing of you. But he would fully support Mark. He would be sorry Mark was in pain. But Dad knows only support. He has no attack. He can just be with you in whatever moment you’re both in, and he doesn’t need any opinions of his own when he’s there. He’s there for you.

If you think you have unlimited Father’s Days, or Summers, or Christimas’s or Tuesdays, then you’re fine. But eventually you figure out you don’t, and then each of those things becomes stunningly special. Far from wanting just one more Father’s Day, you’ll want one more weekend, one more day, one more hour.

I’m not a vampire and neither is my father. We have hearts and our souls will eventually leave them. That temporary nature is the very quality that gives life its richness. It is what the vampire can only taste in small doses but humans can activate throughout their lives.

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I have my father’s sense of humour. I remember distinctly the day I learned courage from him. I remember distinctly when I learned compassion from him. And he taught me what it was like to be with a human being who was sincerely and completely invested in connecting with me. Experiencing that connection always felt so incredibly good and it gave me so much strength that still today I do my utmost to have as many of my exchanges be like that as possible. Dad has always left people better than he found them.

I’m grateful that my Aunt woke part of me up while I was still young enough to have a very deep and wonderful relationship with my parents. I will miss my Dad if he leaves this Earth before me. But in the meantime I won’t let my fears eat up my insides. Not when I can use them to push me even closer to Dad.

Reconsider the people around you. Do not take them for granted. That would be stealing from yourself.

Have an awesome day.

peace. s

The Friday Dose #73

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Today’s Dose is about the remarkable, consistent and unconditional love of animals. Our pets love us in such a pure way. They know everything about us and yet if we’re not conscious enough to do anything about it, they still let us get away with fair amounts of neglect and they will still meet us with love.

Today your mental distraction starts with the brilliant mind and eye of a German photographer who specializes in pets, and in particular Dog photos that could be featured in ways that communicate their personalities. Her work is delightful, it’s gorgeous and it’s very likely to make you happy. Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you Elke Vogelsang and her models:

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Elke Vogelsang Photography

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And after that bit of lightness we will proceed on to an absolutely beautiful film that will has a great lesson for all of us in life. It’ll make you cry in that way we all love doing, where you feel better afterwards–even you tough guys out there. This is a story narrated by Denali, about his life with cancer, and the living he did with his best friend, Ben Moon. I highly recommend it:

Thanks everyone. If anyone’s interested in any more dog material, here’s the link to my last day with my beloved dog Mo: Mo-ments

Have a great weekend everyone. Love who’s present.

peace and love. s

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Born Again

If you look at it from the right angle, being told you were dead is a big plus in life because it gets you to really appreciate that being alive is actually quite a privilege. So first my dad almost lost me due to my massive brain injury when I was five, and then I almost lost him in 1983 when he ended his roofing career by doing a 3 meter head-first dive into concrete. He’s had cancer, he experiences strokes, and the other day my parent’s neighbour found him 669 Relax and Succeed - Every experience no matter how bad it seemsunconscious and bleeding on her front sidewalk.

I have been keenly aware since I was five that just as I almost did, people can vanish and often without warning. One minute we can talk to them and the next minute we can’t. When Mom and I got to to the hospital physical Dad was there but mental Dad wasn’t. He didn’t know who we were or what had happened. It’s the first time I remember seeing my mother look scared, and Dad looked lost. It must be a terrible sensation to not be able to reel in your own identity. And at the same time it shows that our identity is little more than a collection of our memories and habits.

As I sat in the Emergency Room waiting area I couldn’t help but notice the worried expressions on nearly every face. Everyone was living in the future or the past. They were wishing someone hadn’t tried that trick on their bike, or they wish their diet had been better the last 20 years. Or if they were living in the future they were speculating about what might happen. That’s when I was reminded of how most people see things.

Because I knew very profoundly that I really could lose my father at any second, I did not waste a moment of our time together by wondering about times other than the moment we were in. In that moment I could see that he was scared and that he didn’t even know what would bring him comfort, and so I just held his hand and told him I loved him and that worked pretty well. With no offence to the others intended, if you were watching them closely you 669 Relax and Succeed - You have to embrace getting oldercould see they were so busy worrying about what they might lose that they weren’t very present at all with the people they were there with—including the patient.

Despite my awareness during the emergency I was aware that night that I had undergone a fundamental shift in my self-identity. I was born again as I realized that my time as a part of the next generation was approaching and it allowed me to come to realize that I’m unnerved by the idea of living without my father. I didn’t know it until this last accident happened, but I know of no safer place than in the presence of my entirely non-judgmental, fully supportive father. He’s always displayed courage, decency, kindness, generosity, compassion and intense interest.

My dad has been genuinely excited by everything that’s excited me. He loves it when I love my life and I do not like the idea of living without my hero and that knowledge has changed me. But rather than lament where I am in life I accept that these transitions are a natural part of my love for him and our movement though life. If I don’t resist them with wanting thoughts I will be able to fully immerse myself in the moment, and that’s better because that’s where I’ll find my Dad.

My parents are both way past the national average for lifespan. Mom teaches exercise three times a week and Dad volunteers all over the place plus he walks every neighbour’s dog. That’s what he was doing when he fell. But at their age things can change in an instant and so I’m fully 669 Relax and Succeed - Learn to appreciate what you haveaware that I could have another two decades of goodbyes or that the next one might be the last one. That can feel terrifying if I think about it from a what do I lose? perspective. But if I think about it as a simple reality, it suddenly makes my already beloved parents even more precious.

My Dad is my hero and I love my Mom thoroughly. If my life has been this great clearly they got a whole bunch of stuff right. If it works out that I get another 20 years I will be grateful for every single day. But if it ends sooner I will still be living in a state of mind where I am routinely, unbelievably grateful that these two amazing people are my parents. And loving that fact is about the best thing I can think to do with however much time we have left with each other.

Thanks Mom and Dad. If you were wondering if you succeeded—I can’t imagine a greater success than helping a kid to live a life that he’s absolutely loved. I love you both more than you can imagine.

hugs and kisses, s

PS Oh yeah, and as for Dad’s fall—his brain bleed is healing and he’s thankfully back on his anti-stroke medication. We’re going to watch some playoff hockey games together this week. 🙂

Light Up Your Life

It is understandable when significant events have an impact on our lives. There is nothing wrong with feeling a sting of pain or jab of remorse or to be choked with sorrow. These are all legitimate ways to experience life. You just don’t want to stay spinning on those states of mind when you were meant to move on. In fact the pain is there to indicate to you that you 662 Relax and Succeed - I know now that we never get over great lossesare not supposed to ruminate on thoughts of that type and that it is time to move on to other things.

You have two choices after you’ve experienced hardship, pain or loss. You can allow those experiences to diminish you—to crush your spirit—and you can shroud yourself in dark thoughts about the past or damning ones about the future. Or you can accept those experiences as valuable and in doing so integrate them into your being. Previous experience is what creates empathy and that leads to compassion which is a form of love and connection. So pain and suffering are ultimately an invitation to have more love and connection in your life. But not if you hide away and shroud yourself in wishful thinking.

Everyone you meet has experienced great pain. And you can see how it’s affected them. For some they are hunched and tired and defeated, whereas others are bright and empathetic and aware. Some relive their pain regularly whereas others are only glad to have survived it. My father said there was only two ways to come back from WWII: sorry you went or glad you made it back. These aren’t two different wartime experiences, these are two different choices about how to process the fact of being in a war. So the person in pain will say that their experience is the source of their suffering just as the compassionate person will say that the very same experience is the source of their compassion.

662 Relax and Succeed - Sunlight I met a girl onceI’ve referred to kintsukoroi in a previous blog. It’s the Japanese practice of repairing broken pottery with gold. The notion is that no one should be upset by a broken vase because it now has the opportunity to be even more beautiful. The same holds for people. As Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross points out, the cracks are where the light gets out. The uninjured are of little comfort to a grieving person. But someone who understands? That person is invaluable. That person can connect with you. That person can share your pain and thereby diminish its intensity. You are grateful for those people in your life.

I am not suggesting that you enjoy your next struggle. But do keep in mind that it is in a way a form of Life University, where are you being constantly re-trained in matters of the heart. Do not let your unpleasant experiences lead you to lock yourself away. This is like getting your angels wings and then not flying. After those events you are made more powerful, larger and more connected. In fact your own strength will increase with each additional person you help. And all the time you will be bound together by the gold of your relationship—the bond of shared pain.

Life is sometimes beautiful and rewarding. And other times it is harsh and cruel. But the way to beautiful and rewarding from harsh and cruel is often through someone who has enough experience with the latter that they can lead you to the former. And it’s important to remember that sometimes that person will be you.

peace. s