Angel Day

GlobeBSukeyIf I’ve ever doubted the mind body connection I am reminded of it at several key points throughout the year. Today marks the anniversary of Charlotte’s death.  In the span of 3 hours on a hot summer day in late August of 2004 my world, my gut, my family was irreparably split open.  While our family has healed and grown in the last 11 years we are forever changed by that loss on many fronts and the pain hits me fresh most clearly on the anniversary of the day she became an angel and on the day of her birthday in this earthly life.

Her birthday is of deep personal significance and sorrow to me as a mother and I think about it and honor it mostly in private.  However,  the date that she died I’d rather just sleep through.  We all react to loss and anniversaries differently, but for me her ‘angel day’ is one  I’d love nothing more than to forget and find myself glancing at my calendar on the 19th with the realization that yesterday was the day. My life will be forever defined as a mother and as a soul in terms  of time before Charlotte died and after Charlotte died.  Forever.

But the body remembers even when the head wants to forget.  We store our history, our love, our pain, our deepest highs and lows, passions and problems at the core of our body.  They are in our cells and imbedded in our DNA.  With each beat of the heart and breath they are nourished and fed.  If we give them too much life they overtake our ability to function.  If we give them too little they do the same.  But they are inside of us.  All of our life experience resides within the confines of our body and with certain triggers it surfaces.  Have you noticed that?

August 18th is one of those triggers.  Driving along yesterday out of the blue I was overcome and began to weep for no reason that I was immediately aware of.  Having steeped in more loss and challenge than the average soul I’ve gotten used to sitting with it.  Within a few breaths and a quick checklist of running through my body mentally it was clear.  It’s late August.  August 18th marks the day that we went from a 5 to a 4.  The day I watched the sun set in horror knowing that when it rose the following morning it would be a day that she no longer would spend physically here.  She no longer would be making memories in the same way.

One thing I do know?  Around mid-August my ribs get tighter.  My breath comes with less ease.  My muscles ache and my heart feels heavy.  I sometimes feel my throat closing.  When I sit with it I am reminded of the power of thought and the power of our own bodies to hang on to these memories.

With these physical symptoms I am reminded that I miss Charlotte with every fiber of my being.  I am also reminded that she resides inside of me.  Just as she grew safely inside my womb I now feel her coursing through my veins.  Some essence of her is stored inside of me and serves as a reminder that she was here for a short time as my daughter.  I know we will see each other again.  Until then, these anniversaries and noteworthy dates serve as reminders that I still carry her inside of me with perhaps even less distinction of seperate body and soul than when she was my daughter.

11 years out it is a strong reminder to stay attentive to that space.  Don’t feed it too much but do not neglect it.  Keep breathing.  Keep moving.  Keep feeling.  The anguish never does go away, nor do I want to fully release it, but the exquisite tenderness becomes less palpable with the passage of time.
The gutting ache is a reminder.  Like much of life’s most precious experiences, the sensation of being reminded is bittersweet.  I miss my daughter not one shred less than on the day she died.  But time and distance have softened many of the hard edges of that grief and allowed me to sink in to the embrace of her memory.  I still feel her.SFBCSBLifeJacket

Facing the Storm

 

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It’s a daily choice.  Sometimes even a choice by the minute.  Misery is an option; I’ve learned the hardest way possible if we are careful about how we wear our misery then some day much of it will be replaced with a quiet grace and, if we work at it, even a triumphant joy in living.  That said, we ALL have our moments.

I don’t really believe in luck.  I believe in good fortune and good circumstances and admittedly some of us are given more than others.  I believe in destiny.  But I also truly believe that we are the ones responsible for crafting our life in the large margins of all that and making it shine like a gem or allowing it to turn dull and lifeless.  We are the ones who make that happen. You say my life is blessed or charmed?  Guess what?  In many ways it is.  But it takes constant work.

4:15am yesterday.  All problems seem unsolvable at that hour.  I had been sliding into a blue state since mid day the day prior and the idea of getting out of bed to greet another melancholy day that early in the morning seemed untenable.  I considered taking half of a sleeping pill to put me back down for 4 hours.  I considered it a lot.  And I considered getting out of bed and going for a walk or writing but I didn’t have the energy for either.  So I lay there wallowing in my own self loathing and misery until by sheer force of will I dragged myself out of bed and pulled on the clothing lying on the floor next to my bed that I’d worn the day prior.

I was exhausted and not wanting to move but the desire to meet whatever storm was brewing inside of me head on and hopefully regain equilibrium propelled me forward.  For me, not knowing how I feel is the worst.  Clarity allows direction and action.  Murky sludgy free floating misery to me is the pits.  It’s what gives me the most trouble emotionally when it comes up.  And yet time and again I have found that a combination of quieting my mind and physical movement usually bring some emotional breakthrough or release.

About a quarter mile in to my walk I became aware of the ground and the sense of life moving up through my feet despite my grisly spirits.  Out loud to everyone and noone in particular I said “you will take care of me, won’t you?” and instantly felt a quickening inside of me.  Feeling a bit more safe, the tears then came and I walked and wept, something which I did a lot of in the early years after my daughter died.  I chose to walk along the water rather than head in to the woods despite the clear signs that a large storm was approaching.  Something about walking straight in to a storm appealed to me.  Perhaps I’ve gotten used to doing just that.  Facing storms has made me more fearless and courageous.  Mostly.  On most days.  But not all.


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The ominous silver sky and blustery wind suited my mood and the intensified hues of color due to the light preceding a storm lured me out of my broody trudge just long enough to take note of their electric beauty.

When the sky darkened I opened my arms to stretch my chest and heart, arched my back and leaned way back on my heels taking long, deep breaths.  The simple act of breathing has kept me alive all these years and when melancholy or scared I find it one of the most effective tools at literally opening those spaces inside that fold in on themselves when I am scared, or vulnerable, or struggling in any number of ways.  Opening my eyes I stared at the clouds moving overhead and kept breathing.   And then I heard a voice from deep inside of me that seemed to come from someone, someplace, something other than me.  “You are much bigger than this”.

In that moment I stood utterly connected to the land, to myself, to the flow of life and love.  I felt the embrace of God and the universe with such might I dropped to my knees in gratitude and began to sob.  Such chaotic majesty holding me close and circling around me.  And now speaking to me? Such a gift.  Such a moment of grace.  I was overcome.  And so I laughed.  And then I sobbed and laughed.  And then I just sat in the peace of it for a while.

And then came the rain. I sat there on my knees with my face raised to pelting rain and the sky and must have said thank you 10 times.  The melancholy did not leave but I now felt cradled.  Despite the storm or perhaps even because of the storm, Mother Nature was rocking me and letting me know that I was bigger than the storm.  It would pass if I just rode it out.  It always does.  I trusted I’d feel full and clear again.  There was an ease to the rest of the day that had not been there earlier.  By late afternoon I was smiling and felt warm.

Long ago in a very dark place I felt I had only 3 choices for how I was going to continue in life and if I was going to continue in life.  Those choices were die, exist, live.  I chose to live and it has defined every aspect of what has, 11 years later, become an extraordinary and charmed life that on good days feels full of grace.  I am proud of that.  It isn’t always easy by any measure– life is made up of daily decisions and regular fights with demons.  Yesterday’s extraordinary experience could have been replaced by a medicated sleep.  Rather than waking up drowsy and drugged I chose to pull myself up and out and was handsomely rewarded.  Over time, light and life win in a big way.

“Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable.  And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.  I wrap my fear around me like a blanket”– Indigo Girls

The gift of sharing a special space

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It’s easy to make any event took more extravagant, majestic and lovely given the backdrop of a wood paneled 150 year old dining room and 200 year old grand dame of a home.  It’s almost cheating from the standpoint of hosting.  But there is so much more to this privilege than a wood paneled dining room and an historic home amidst untamed land.

The dining room emits an energy that calls each of the party around the table to their highest form.  I’ve seen it time and again.  The light in the room makes everyone a bit more beautiful.  The walls echo and dance with the combined notes of conversations past and present.  Reverberations of silly conversational games, political strategy, lively debate, ribald humor, outright vulgarity, toddler tantrums and sibling rivalries expressed and unexpressed over 6 generations bounce from the lacquered ceiling as reminders that we are not alone in creating this evening.  The remnants of 200 years of distinguished visitors float around that house, I feel the energy lodge most powerfully between the 6 walls of the Dining Room (yes, 6)

When I sit at that table with a collection of friends and family it is the most distinct privilege that I have in this life to share it with them.  That table, this place, these people past and present, have sustained me through the unimaginable and have formed me into first the girl, then the woman that I am today.  It’s complicated, intriguing, vulnerable, earthy.  Welcoming, fun and generous.  Yes this dining room can be off-putting, intimidating, quirky, imperious and moody.  Like me.  All of this space IS me.  Time and again I’ve see the myriad of ways this family home invites visitors to be the best and highest version of themselves.  Of ourselves.  On these grounds, one cannot pretend.

I regularly hear guests remark about the magic.  While some is captured in a photograph it is best experienced in person.

What a distinct privilege to share it.

3 generations gathered on the porch then in the dining room for a themed dinner the other night (because we play here.  That’s part of the fun.  We all play).  There was a palpable fluidity conversationally.  Gentle winds wishing through fully opened windows on three sides of the room flickered the candles.  The only light to the room spilled from the horn chandelier and a multitude of candles.  The guests illuminated the darker corners of the room with their hearty laughter, each taking their turn in the limelight, sharing stories from chicken coops, to kite boards, to personal projects (each more delicious than the last), challenges, adventures, desires and triumphs.

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The highlight for me?  A group of extended friends and family children quietly opened the heavy wooden doors and circled the head of the table around dessert.  After the smallest bit of encouragement they stood in a loose choral formation and sang the folk song ‘500 miles’ for the room.  10 teens, voices lifted together for an appreciative seated audience of 18.  This tradition of singing, of sharing, of comfort in putting ourselves out there amidst the embrace of history; it continues with this generation.  It is the distinct privilege that we have in my family, in this space, in this time.  It is what was conveyed to us.  It is what we have conveyed to them.  It is how I know the younger generation is listening and being present when often they seem not to be.

To be able to share that multi generational connection with friends and other family members is one of my greatest joys.  To invite friends in to that intimate circle and see them light up in appreciation of the grounding power of  the land, the history, the  magic that we all share in this place THAT is my distinct privilege.  It is my great fortune and blessing to be a conduit to this magic.

So when you look at the dining room table or the pastoral views, please do remember that, as spectacular as they are to view, it is what they represent in terms of belonging and place, that is what so deeply resonates.  That is where the magic lies. That is the soul of the space.

This is where I sit and I live and I love.

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This is where I sit.  I’m in the same spot. The same spot on the same porch where I sat with my grandfather as a child, careful with my manners, my words and my position in the chair.  The same spot on the same porch where I curled into my fiancé dreaming of a broad future that would include children, adventures, this house.  The same spot on the same porch where each of my children crawled amidst a sea of antique toys and snacked on flaked chips of lead paint–probably far too many for me to fully appreciate.  From this porch I’ve watched horses gallop, deer jump, sheep mate, dogs frolic and three generations of family kick soccer balls, shoot rockets and fly kites. Together. I’ve seen countless storms advance and recede.   I have etched an awe-filled memory of  my 6 year old daughter twirling in a torrential downpour, arms outstretched, arched back, face to the heavens and squealing with glee just 3 days before she herself made that trip to the sky.   I have sat on this porch so gutted and broken that all I could do was steep in the ache. The breeze shifts and snippets of conversations waft through.  I recognize the voices but not the words.  The sheep are grazing.  I hear them pulling up the grass by the roots and grinding it with their teeth. A tractor growls in the distance.  The birds cheer the day with their morning songs. On the glass table in front of me a fresh cup of coffee throws off steam. This is where I sit and I live and I love.

Melancholy Paperback Publication Date

FullSizeRenderAs it is with many ‘hallmark’ days for those of us who have suffered great loss and personal challenge, today is a mix of highs and lows.

The paperback version of The Angel in My Pocket launched today.  I’m thrilled.  Writing the book involved digging back in to places that I had worked very hard to process and find a sense of understanding and comfort.  It was difficult in the extreme.  But sharing The Angel in My Pocket and learning of the reader reaction has been healing and cathartic on levels I had never anticipated.  Thank you friends, family, readers, publishers, publicists, reviewers all for giving this book such a welcome to the resources available on grief.  I’m touched and proud that this story has been so well received.  Just as I had needed it on my nightstand 11 years ago, it seems others have as well.

AND YET, and yet, and YET…. On July 3, 2014, the day of the hardcover launch and now this morning, May 19, 2015, I am unglued.

It is a vulnerable place putting oneself out in memoir.  It is a sharing of the deepest recesses of one’s soul and the honesty that the page required was not always easy to deliver.  You, dear reader, know more about me than many  lifetime relationships have ever known.  Many dear friends and family members reported to me after reading The Angel in My Pocket that they had learned much about me in the reading of the book.  I don’t tend to lead with vulnerable.  Even when we believe we are open we tend to hold back.  But not on the page.  Not if we want to share the whole story as we experienced it.

But today I am undone.  Today the tears won’t stop and I’m back ‘in this sweet madness, oh this glorious sadness, it brings me to my knees’ (Sarah McLachlan).  Though it brings me joy to have The Angel in My Pocket impacting many others on their journey, today, privately, I am feeling the ache of loss and letting go fresh.

It never does go away.  Nor do we really want it to.  The lessons we learn and the growing take the space of much of the sorrow but the wounds are always there.

The celebration of the success of the book is also a reminder that without the death of my daughter at the age of six my story would have been very different.  Much as I am proud of my path and much as I have grown in every way imaginable from the loss, the grief, and the finding the way back to life, at the end of the day I just wish I had my daughter Charlotte and not an angel.

Here is what I didn’t expect from publication of my story.  Readers rather early on responded to the part of the book that is actually about living.  It was written as a lookback from a place that I had found back in the land of fully embracing and loving life.  It was written as an example of the transformative power of grief.  There was so much guilt and shame in allowing myself permission to decide to live despite this gutting loss.  It turns out many of us have want to give ourselves permission to be ok one day.  After all that suffering don’t we deserve to survive and thrive?  Don’t we?  Don’t you?

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Boston Marathon Bombers

This is a re-post of what I wrote last year after the Bombing with a photograph of this year’s finish line.   I’m so proud of Boston.  I’m so proud of us.

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Here we are at the end of a surreal week that was filled with horrific events and unspeakable anxiety. I have been unable to string a phrase together and my response to the  Boston Marathon bombings has surprised me.  As humans we must have only a certain amount of crisis coping that we are able to do.   I have been aware of feeling despondent more than depressed.  I was not aware of feeling threatened so much as vulnerable.  And broken.

Worst of all was the broken feeling—as an individual and as a society. But if there is one thing that I have learned from being laid bare by grief after the loss of my daughter is that we all have coping mechanisms and we employ them differently.   Mine happens to be a gallows humor at times of exquisite pain and then the gift (and I do believe this was the greatest ‘gift’ of all) of being able to find a silver lining in most painful experiences.  I seek it.  It becomes part of my process of coping to simultaneously find the humor and the tenderness in in any crisis.   Without the humor and the ability to see the lessons, however small they might be, I find I am not able to process the pain.  Perhaps I heal vicariously  watching others reaching out and doing good deeds.  Operating from their heart.

In a senseless act of violence such as we experienced last week in Boston it is hard to find a silver lining.  I still cannot think of a silver lining around those two troubled boys who are responsible for this other than the fact that they have now been caught.  I find myself thinking about their mother, their family, their friends. I was not overcome so much by the horror of the photographs of the injuries and the crowds as I was by the humanity of the effort that went into the effort at the scene of the bombings and then the picking up the pieces in the days afterwards and then the manhunt on Friday followed by the Red Sox game on Saturday.   Over and over again what brought me to tears and kept me there was the humanity that I saw over and over in our dear town. While holding ourselves up and preparing for battle we collectively were in this crucible together.  United.

Stoicism is a large part of the Boston tradition.  We are tough.  It is my opinion that New Yorkers present with a lot of tough on the surface but they are much more emotionally accessible than Bostonians.  We go tough to the bone.  Not necessarily a good thing yet it has served us well.  It served us well this past week.  I have not heard about crowds being trampled.  All I hear of is coordinated efforts that over and over again have made clear how many lives and limbs were saved because of being mindful and quick thinking.   Runners unable to complete the marathon who changed course and ran the 2 additional miles to the hospital to give blood.  This is Boston.  We are tough.  Wicked tough.  Pissa tough.

Granted there is a time and a place for emotion.  The first responders on Monday had to move almost on instinct.  From the primal place of fight or flight.  Most came at it from the fight position.  They moved quickly and purposefully into the terror and methodically and collectively worked together to triage, support, dismantle bombs, clear the site, and help in whatever way they could.  All heroes.  From the spectators that slowly moved away without panic to the folks to helped the uninjured yet very exhausted runners to the most obvious first responders at the site.  All heros.  All working from their gut.  From their sense of right.  From a strong sense of purpose and humanity.  I keep coming back to that and those moments of humanity are what touch me.  They made me proud to be a Bostonian.

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My tears are still confusing.  But they are triggered by the humanity. They were triggered by Sweet Caroline played at Yankee Stadium by a team that we love to hate and who love to hate us and yet we all not so secretly know that we are in this together.  And at least for the vociferous Yankee and Red Sox fans they love baseball and they love America.  Triggered again by Neil Diamond’s surprise visit to Fenway Park to lead the seventh inning stretch and traditional signing of his ‘Sweet Caroline’ by singing it live.  Of his own volition.

My sad tears this week have been for how we failed these two boys.  The first who seems to have veered way off the track years ago and the second who was following his brother.  There are so many on the wrong path and THAT is what is sorrowful.  The damage they did is horrific (there I go with that word).  But the biggest horror to me when looking at them is that we are failing as a society.  We lose our innocence bit by bit when these things happen so close to home.  We don’t consider ourselves as Americans to be living in a war zone.  We feel isolated and safe.  While relatively true is it arrogant of us.  The actual death and casualty rate from Monday’s bombing is a daily occurance in other parts of the world.  What blew most of us away is not even that it happened to civilians but that it happened here.  On Patriot’s Day.  I won’t politicize.  It is not my place nor do I feel I am equipped enough to make a statement beyond that. But the humanity.  The humanity of everyone in this town that often does not show it, THAT really gets me.

This week as we turn our minds to healing and moving forward I plan to celebrate Boston just a wee bit more.  To look even more closely for the silver lining at every turn.  Spring is here.  April 22, 2013.  Our city is springing back to life.  The magnolias are in full bloom on Commonwealth Avenue.  The Swan Boats are making their gentle circles around the Public Garden.  Window boxes are full of life, bulbs are blooming.  Life is happening all around us.  I plan to jump back in and let the beauty and humanity around us in this great town raise my spirits day by day.

Toasting Grief

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Good grief.  We were a motley crew ranging in age from 25-50.  A medium, a Zen hospice physician and two authors of memoirs on grief, healing and the afterlife.    At the start of the evening we were four individuals intimately acquainted with death but not each other.

Seated at the dinner table last night what did we discuss?  We discussed life.  Living.  We toasted Ted Talks, Op-eds, TV deals, book launches and paperback releases.  We laughed.  We brought each other down a peg while simultaneously supporting and honoring the work we each were doing small and large.  We sipped pinot noir and then zinfandel.  Somebody smoked a cigarette—I won’t say who.

We flirted with the waitstaff, the sommelier, the manager, the dog outside.  We talked about connection, friendship, and vulnerabilities both personal and professional.  We discussed the status quo and how to change conversations about death on a global scale.  We laughed some more and everyone around that table smiled with their eyes.

We were full before the food arrived.

At one point one of us paused, looked around the table and said with playful gravitas “those of us who are intimately acquainted with death sure do know how to live”.  The statement came after we had each had enough wine that I don’t recall which of us said it.  However, it is equally likely that any one of the four of us would have uttered the words.  At that we all toasted to living despite…..

A NOTE TO READERS:    If this conversation interests you I invite you to seek out Psychic Medium Fleur, Author Claire Bidwell Smith (‘The Rules of Inheritance’ and ‘After This’),  and Dr BJ Miller (Director of Zen Hospice San Francisco).  Each are making great contributions to the different ways in which we move through bereavement as individuals and as a society.

My life from Kodachrome to jpg

I tackled a project today that I have wanted to do but avoided for over 10 years.  Today I found the strength and the time to go through and label photographic negatives (remember them?) from 1995-2004.  I’ve been afraid to do this as the project requires viewing the timeline of my life as a young wife and new mother in kodachrome.   1995-2004 was the sweet spot for our family.

image1By odd coincidence, Charlotte died in August of 2004.  For several months I could barely function, let alone even have the slightest desire to remember those days in pictures, so it was not until early 2005 that I started back up with keeping track of our family life with a camera.  By then we had gone digital.  Charlotte’s entire life is represented in the negatives that I sorted today:  from the day she was born in 1997 until 3 days before she died in 2004.  Writing about it now I feel the knot in my gut growing.  But this morning as I worked on the project I was somewhat disengaged as I lifted each sheet to the skylight to identify it’s contents then labelled it with a sharpie and laid it back down methodically in the dated piles.

The six inch tall stack of sheets of negatives tells the story of our young family.   It tells the story of BEFORE.

Reviewing the negatives I feared might take me to the bottom of the grief abyss again.  It’s harrowing climbing out of that deep hole and forging a new life after staggering loss.  It’s mighty hard work to weave together the fullness of the experience of what life was like before with what life was like after and find some way to feel any sense of comfort or sense of acceptance about the schism.  And yet I MUST.  We all MUST.  And I waited and avoided and made excuses.  I even had the courage to write a book and share it with the world over these past ten years but still I waited on the negatives.   I was afraid of them.  But today I did it.  I did it.

IMG_8079Sitting here quietly and scanning the piles before me I am aware of my feet on the ground, my heart beating quietly in my chest and the breathe moving through me with ease despite the twisting knot in my gut.   I feel a sense of completion and relief to be sending them off to be digitized.  The effort will be worthwhile.  Our family records will now include a full history in pictures.  Charlotte’s older brother and younger sister will have free access to the full archive of our family life and their childhood.  I did it for them, but I also now know I did it for me.

I’m looking forward to scrolling through the memories when the negatives come back to me as jpgs on discs.  I’ll savor them.  I know I’ll weep and I sure hope I’ll find some smiles, but I’m also looking forward to that deep dive back in to the outtakes of photos not used in albums but still worthy of keeping.  Photos of painted faces on Halloween, Birthday parties, family trips,  and sports activities.  I’m so glad that we have them, so proud to have found a way to finally complete the project, and so relieved that I didn’t fall into the abyss as I did the work today.

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February is a time for LOVE NOTES

Who needs more love? Pretty much everybody.

When was the last time you received a hand written note? And for those of you who still adhere to the Emily Post etiquette (God love you, you fabulous hold outs) when was the last time you wrote or received a hand written note that wasn’t a thank you note? This month, the month of love, I’d like to invite you to join me in writing one note by hand per day to someone important in your life.

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The point of this exercise is two-fold. First, to show love and appreciation in a more lasting form than just a dashed off email or a passing thank you on the street. Not to diminish the importance of expressing love and gratitude in any way, but there is more care that goes in to taking the time to write a note by hand. In this high tech world many of us are unable to recognize the handwriting of some of our nearest and dearest. What a far cry we are from the 19th century when penmanship was taught as an entire course in school and cursive writing was considered an art form in and of itself.

The point is not your perfect words, it is not your stationary, and it is not meant to take up enormous emotional space (but feel free if the spirit moves you). The point is to take the time to put YOUR words onto the page in your own handwriting, then address an envelope, affix a stamp and send it off in the mail.

Try just a short memory: “Dear Friend, Remember the time we had a water balloon fight in the yard with our children? In February? I was thinking about that yesterday and it made me smile. You have a contagious sense of adventure. I’m glad we are friends”.

Simple yet meaningful.

Or an expression of gratitude: “Dear Teacher-of-my-child, When you took the time last week to compliment my son on his essay he came home excited about his new school for the first time in weeks. Thank you for the care you show to your students. Your sensitivity and generosity have earned my son’s devotion and have made a marked difference in his confidence”.

Or even reinforcing everyday affection: “Dear Daughter, Even though we say ‘I love you’ regularly in our home, I want you to know that with each passing day I love you more and I love you no matter what. Watching you navigate the world and become a fine young woman has been my greatest joy. I am so proud of you.”.

These notes are not complicated. They take almost no time yet they express powerful messages to the recipient: You matter. I care about you. I see you. Thank you.

One thing you can never give away is kindness. Let’s spread a bit more around.   Let’s let the people who make a different in our days know how much we care for them and why.

Will you join me? Pull out that stationary that is languishing in your drawer. Go find your favorite colored pen. Buy some stamps. Take just 15 minutes each day to give a little love on the page.

Then let’s chat later this month about how good that feels. Will you please join me?

 

 

PS If you really want to splurge on some stationary check out Felix Doolittle. The papers are wildly expensive but works of art. You can also make your own cards out of photographs uploaded to vistaprint and other sites. Your children’s or your own artwork or photos of your pets and favorite spots are also a terrific way to personalize notes even more….. Just don’t lose sight of the real point of the project which is sending out LOVE.

http://www.felixdoolittle.com/collections/note-cards-personalized (big splurge but WOW!)

 

Kissing 50

FullSizeRender-2On my 40th birthday I felt as if I was turning 100. Worn out from my middle child’s sudden death 5 months prior, I was fragile and tired. Ten years later I am a different woman in all regards and as I sit here kissing 50 I’m feeling rather youthful.

There’s a sense of renewal and excitement about stepping into a new decade and yet one trip to the card section of the local pharmacy confirms for me conventional wisdom treats the fifties with a combination of resignation and humor, the subtext of which is “You are in decline, get used to it. And by the way, keep your sense of humor.” Excuse me, but I feel better now than I have in a years. My heart has grown in capacity to compensate for the dark hole that is grief. My children are thriving. Moments of awe that evaded me in the darkest days are now a part of daily life. My muscles are strong and I am fit. All of this has happened both despite and because of my life experience. Have you found that as well?

Perhaps some of the resignation and angst I hear from others about turning 50 lies in the mere fact that by being here on this earth for 50 years few of us is untouched by grief, suffering, disappointment and struggle on one or more fronts. But do we give ourselves enough credit for being resilient in the face of these challenges? It is in the wisdom gained through time we learn to pay attention to the silver lining of that which is placed before us. We see that experience offers us the gifts of growth and often even a blossoming and a deepening of heart, soul and mind.

We also live in good times for health in the western world. New body parts, pharmaceuticals, fresh air and good food are more accessible to the broad population—all of which contribute dramatically to our quality of life.
The vitality, vim and vigor so many of us have at 50 along with the lessons we’ve learned in the trenches tees this up to be the sweet spot of life, doesn’t it? We know what matters now. We can make stuff happen. And if we don’t feel obliged, then we often don’t show up. With age comes great privilege.

You see, we’ve all got a lot of good living to do. For the decade of my 50s and for my 50th year in particular I plan to just BE. Be present. Be alive. Be full and live fully. I’m going to focus on what is important: Love. Awe. Connection. Laughter. Kindness. Fun.

This business of turning 50? Based on what I have seen I’ve decided that ages 45-65 are the sweet spot of life. I am looking forward to some of that sweetness. Guess what else? All that focusing on what’s important in daily living? It keeps you young where it matters: in your heart.

NOTE:  This essay was featured on the front page of the Huffington Post Post 50 section on January 21, 2015.  It is also archived on my Huffington Post blogsite