Understanding Life Through Death

When Breath Becomes Air. by Paul Kalanithi

I had heard a little bit about this book and knew it probably wouldn’t be an easy read, but I had some time as I was recovering from surgery.  I saw it on my local library’s express read and grabbed it without too much thought.

To say I was not prepared is an understatement.  I knew he died, all readers know as it is written in the description of the book.  I was not prepared for the connection I would make with his longing to understand living and death.  I was not prepared to see the honest glimpses of a neurosurgeon resident that were not in any way above me or better than my existence.  And in the end of it all to experience his experience of death as told by his wife in the epilogue.  I did not expect nor prepare for the grief I experienced for someone I didn’t know.

I expected the story of a neurosurgeon resident to be somehow not so relatable to my life.  Not that I feel a doctor’s life is more worthy than others but I figured there would still be a sense of achievement within Paul’s journey that would set our lives far apart.  But I did not get that sense at all in his story.  He actually starts out by saying he doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps into medicine but instead studies literature.

What really pulled me in was the honestness of a story told from his perspective, in his search for meaning and trying to understand death.  This search is ultimately what leads him to medicine.

It was only afterwords that I read the reviews that said this is a book that will stay with the reader for a long time.  It does.

His death is heartbreaking not because his life felt superior and should have been saved but because losing a soul is heartbreaking in itself.  It is heartbreaking for his family and friends and now for all the readers who mourn the loss of someone who was trying to find his meaning and path in this world that can be so joyful and so cruel.

We are all just trying to find our way, our meaning in this world that can be so joyful and cruel.  Why do some have to leave so soon.  We can’t answer that except to know that it’s not about fairness in the way we measure it.  I believe there must be a cosmic reason.  A soul contract that we made before we came that contains the wisdom of losing lives so early.  That we really don’t know how long we have for a reason.

It leaves me with the realization that I focus way too much on the things that don’t matter in the end.  That the world supports me in doing this.  Our systems are messed up.

I focus way too often on losing the last 10 pounds, having clear skin, and owning the “right” stuff.  Consumerism is constantly knocking on my door, your door.  To buy more, upgrade, that all the latest goods will make our lives better.

They don’t.

Kindness, compassion, working to the good of our friends and family.  Lifting spirits, supporting each other in our journeys, understanding that we are usually trying our best from we we are.  That some start with very little in life.  Not just from a materialistic perspective but with a good family, friends and supportive community.  What would the world look like if we all had a good start?

And if we didn’t have a good start in life.  Can we support each other or at the very least give the benefit of knowing that everyone is doing there best in the moment.  Sometimes those moments we see aren’t our best and acknowledging that it doesn’t mean we are stuck there.  We can be better, love better, and treat each better.

It was a disconcerting experience grieving for someone I didn’t even know but I’m so glad I read that book.  It has stirred in me a commitment to being more conscious of my life.  To appreciate the struggle as a part of the beauty of life.

That there is more for me in my life journey.  It is all so uncertain right now what that is but I’m trusting a universe that would bring us Paul Kalanithi who so bravely bared his soul so that we could see ourselves reflected in the infinite universe.

Restlessness

I have felt restless for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure exactly when it started. At what point did I go from the live in the moment to moment ease of the childhood mind to restless?
There are as many reasons underlying this feeling as there is ways to deal with it.

Some of the coping methods I’ve used are constructive and others destructive and I’ve done lots of both.

Overeating, sugar, and alcohol are not so conducive to positively working out good changes.

Trying to work through what this feeling is trying to communicate gives seeds to work with.

And it seems that this restlessness is my tool that I’ve been given to push me to examine my life and figure out what I need to do next.

When I figure out one piece, there is always another wave which at times can feel suffocating and depressing. I’m realizing that the waves will keep coming but if I can learn to move with the waves it is not so crushing. I can see the continual waves with more patience and compassion.

Todays wave is about work. My work history is a combination of being tossed around in the crashing waves to a joyous learn to surf only to have a major wipeout a couple of years ago.

When I graduated from high school there was a recession going on. Add to that limited funds for university and a lack of confidence in my chosen field of teaching, I ended up dropping out of university at the start of second year. I managed to find a full time job working in a coffee shop and at least was able to support myself while searching for what to do next. I was introduced to a boyfriend’s sister who was a CMA – a designated accountant.

That was never my dream but I could take classes at night while I worked and that is how I fell into the accounting profession.

It was not my first choice (or twentieth for that matter) but the whole seven years it took, I could work which was needed. I could never find a fit though in any of the accounting jobs that I had. Thankfully twelve and a half years ago had the confidence to get back into teaching – accounting at a college.

I think some people are not only satisficers or maximizers (http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2006/06/are_you_a_satis) when it comes to choosing but I think it happens in other areas too.

I’ve realized that I tend to have the maximizer in me always on, always scanning to see if any job, relationship, house, and any other part of my life are what’s best for me.

A couple of years ago I had been chugging along quite happy in my role as an instructor and also working on some long-term planning for my department. I already had the restless feeling creeping up after ten years of teaching, I was ready for a different opportunity. Insert some serendipitous miscommunication and an intolerant boss and I switched departments.
I’m still teaching accounting but in a different campus and department.
I love that I know have more freedom in the way I deliver courses and it has been a good change.
But the restlessness is still brewing.
I know part of the solution is learning skills to just let the restlessness go. I don’t have to act on it all the time. Meditation could be one or for me right now (although a 6 yr and 4 yr old tend to be great interrupters!) I have an energy routine to get back into my body that has been working really well. It only takes ten minutes which has meant consistency almost every day.

On the other hand do I want to do another 10 or 15 years doing what I’m doing? My other loves have been psychology (I went back to finish a BA in psych a few years ago). And a chronic illness that has been in remission for a long time but never far from the surface has me exploring alternative healing as a way to fulfill a deeper desire to really work with people at a more personal level.

I don’t know what the answer is yet but I know for sure that the restlessness will keep pushing me to figure it out.

A New Life Emerging

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I have been going through a season or more like a whole year of intense pressure to make changes. The pressure is internal. A need to drive my life in a direction that is more fulfilling, more inline with who I am and who I feel is trapped deep inside.

I have a love of learning and gathering information. And then reading more and more and more. I love blogs, books, and if I have the time courses as well. I love that I gather ideas and and increase my knowing of better ways to eat, to add positivity, and to see how others are living through their blogs.

I’m drawn to stories and it fascinates me what interests and inspires others to live their lives the way they do.
It would take several posts to talk about all the blogs, books, and magazines that I’ve read over the last several years. And I still go to work and take care of my young family.

It’s what I love to do but then I realized that even though I love reading about improvements and great ideas that would make my life fuller, richer and more enjoyable, I’m NOT following through on almost all of these things.

WHY?

That question has plagued me. I realize now that I use up all my time (outside work and family) doing the reading and researching but I leave no time to actually make the changes in my life. It leaves me feeling restless and a bit of a failure when it comes to having a life that I love.

I love insights and have worked really hard to figure out who I am as I thought this was the answer to how I can really make changes and improve my eating, my energy, my direction in life. In turn I can be a better mom.
And certainly this intense search I embarked on over the last couple of years has helped. I finally figured out that I’m an ENFP and a type 4. I could not figure these out before! And it’s in realizing that I have a very open orientation to life and this meant that I could see myself in many types and also that I have had some experiences where I could not express who I was and has meant I keep the real me very private. So private that even I couldn’t access these parts of myself.

The culminating point happened when I went for an Evolutionary Astrology reading that BLEW MY MIND. She touched on my life long struggle to find my way and was able to pull out and explain pieces of me that need to be exposed and shared so that I can move forward. I sat in disbelief as she explained how I’m private and can’t even seem to know myself. That I love learning, pick up on concepts easily but have a hard time accepting one way of being in the world. Yes. Yes. Yes.

I also need to work on finishing something! She recognized that I start many things but don’t really get them off the ground. Like this blog, and I want to implement necessary diet changes to improve my health and learn some key skills to move my work life forward.

And here I am.

Ready to break out of my self imposed cocoon to share my journey in hopes that you can fly beautiful and free too!!

Ch, Ch, Changes

All around there is so much unrest not only in politics but in how we operate and interact with our world. Change is in the air in so many aspects that the uncertainty is overwhelming.

I have felt really called to reflect on my values and to try and discern how my values will drive my actions going forward.

If feels like our political, medical, and educational systems just don’t serve us in today’s world. There is something to be said for tradition, standards, systems and being lead by experts in these areas. But are there experts leading us? Who is really acting on our best interests?
What are our best interests? It’s enough to made me want to crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head and come out when the world looks different.

How do we get the world to look different? How do we get more compassion, kindness, and trust? How do I help the world to look different? It feels so overwhelming. You’ve heard it before – how can my one voice make a difference?
And the answer I know – it’s when we add all the ones together to get a very large sum that DOES make a difference.

For me that means figuring out a path to making my one voice congruent with my values. If I can start here right now at what feels like step one. Even one positive step forward is better than staying stuck in the muck that seems to be cementing my feet.

I can start with a smile and words of kindness to crack the cement to break free from feeling like there is no hope. Hope will grow and expand bit by bit.

Which direction am I stepping? I don’t know!
I do know that every single institution that I have ignored and often just complained about needs to shift into a new way of being.

The government can’t lead changes, it has to start with me (and you!).

The medical system can’t do it only using one way of treating disease and not treating people.

The education system can’t do it by teaching what has always been taught and then expecting students to graduate and be equipped to operate in a chaotic world.

The corporate world can not maintain greed for some as the way to rationalize actions that hurt you and me.

It’s time to step into the unknown and I will share this journey of doing what I can to change, to change a bit of my world and I hope that ripples to meet your changes too.

It’s time to step forward and meet the world with what I can give, to add to hope to the best of my ability and to encourage you to join me.

Hearing the Message

hear the whispers
hear the whispers

It feels like there really is a blog for everything. Google will often give choices endlessly, page after page of options to read, use, and ponder. Voices may leave and others begin to fill into the void. But here is the thing. Not one is exactly the same. The topics may be the same but the stories are different.
Or the feeling of the message is different.

Some messages may speak more clearly to me and not speak to you at all. We may need to hear another voice, or see pictures or feel different in order to resonate with that particular topic, idea, or message.

And as important, when we are trying to grow and expand our view, advance our journey, we need to hear, see, feel, and ponder the message again and again in different ways.

In teaching in my day job, it is about learning modalities and teaching to how learners actually learn best. Auditory, visual, vs kinaesthetic. Ideally I use all three in order to make the learning environment richer, to reach more students to aid in their learning. It means using visual images, speaking, and giving everyone a chance to practice and work with the material to help the learning stick.

The same goes for our personal journeys. I think I am failing sometimes when I hear messages or am learning new ways to make my life more peaceful, accepting, and joyful when I don’t “get it” right away.

I went for a Reiki session several weeks ago with a wonderful Reiki practitioner and medium, Sue Berard, who ends her sessions with words and messages she receives during the session. One of the suggestions she had at my last session was to practice following my intuition. Sue knows my desire to add more divine guidance in my life and she suggested I start by listening to my intuition for as many choices as I can in my day. As simple as asking myself what I want to eat for lunch.
Or what choice of sandwich – start with small choices.

Life is busy and when my young kids are along there is not much space of silence in order to access intuition in the midst of chatter, constant movement, and demands. I think I have tried trusting my instinct in some choices but nowhere near what the amount of practice I would like to be doing.

i don’t know about you but I feel I’m in the midst of a big shift in my life. Not an outward shift but a major inner shift. I’m exhausted not just from raising a six and three year old but from the inner struggle of not living true to me.

I’ve spent many years reading various self-help books and blogs, searching for an answer to quieting my inner restlessness. But sometimes we just aren’t ready and don’t hear the message or really take-in the teachings. The words sound good and make sense. They give a sense of hope of changing my life once and for all.

But then I don’t do the work of the teaching and the message that had such power and hope just fades away.

Maybe it just wasn’t my time yet, I haven’t been really ready until now. I feel like not shifting my inner life is just too painful. I need to shift. To jump into the unknown and journey forward.

And with the readiness to jump into the unknown, the messages start appearing in my life. Conversations lead to feelings of support and a suggestion of a book by Anita Moorjani called “Dying To Be Me”. the book is her story of healing from end stage cancer after having a near death experience. It is soul changing. A very powerful message that we are all One and all come from One. That we embody and are love and how she came back to live fearlessly and help others to hear her message and to see that we can all live fearlessly as our true selves and allow our lives to unfold as magnificent beings.

I wanted to learn more about ways that i can be me, follow my inner direction, and start to allow my life to unfold.

I googled workshops in following divine guidance and magically stumbled into Caroline Myss’s website. I did know of her work as I’ve read a few of her books including Why We don’t Heal and How We Can, as well as Sacred Contracts. Why we Don’t Heal I must have read over 15 years ago and Sacred Contracts probably 10 years.

I remember feeling the messages in these books as interesting and powerful. But the words and teachings have faded away.

What I followed into Carline’s website was a reflections video on intuition. And the core of that message is that to follow intuition means following our truth relentlessly. That we are always receiving messages of our truth, like when we have gut reactions and know the choice to make. Or we may just have a knowing what we should choose but may be afraid to do. That when we don’t follow our truth at any level (wether it’s knowing what we should be eating to knowing a big choice that should be made) that we will become out of balance. That we have have anxiety, depression, and maybe physical symptoms of some kind that it means we have not been following our truth. She gives an amazing analogy of moving up the floors of a building in our journey and that we can’t move to the next floor until we are willing to let our old beliefs die. We will open up to new vistas and truths that will keep us expanding and growing. This is a very short version. I encourage you to go check out her website for more.

And it all comes around to my Reiki session weeks ago about following my intuition! I needed to hear the message again and again to help propel me through my fears to start ascending the stairs of my journey to the next floor. Ready or not…

New Possibilities

There is something about moving to a new house or apartment that opens up possibilities.  Life could be different.  A new story could be crafted.  Life could be fresh, exciting, maybe even a little bit magical.

Maybe that is why home shows are so popular.  We can house hunt, dream of a vacation home, or renovate through these shows.  It certainly saves the hassle of having to pack, move, and spend money.  But after the show is over we look around and still have our clutter in spaces that don’t quite seem to work.  There is no new possibility lurking in the well known corners.

Let’s illuminate life and shine some new life into well worn corners.  Find a way to see new possibilities and craft a life that illuminates the stars of our soul.