Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Freedom

crossing-over

Crossing Over

Between two worlds you
linger, waiting for freedom.
Choice is everything.

I feel compelled to write about the conversations and work we did with my mother-in-law Dorothy during her recent illness, choices that were designed to offer her freedom.

In a world that has sometimes become sterile, devoid of the important intimate conversations of living and dying, it is easy to let things slide. We believe we cannot speak of what’s next or talk opening about death. It has however, been my learning that these are not only important conversations, they are life-giving.

Certainly, as a family none of us wanted to see Dorothy leave us; she is loved and certainly a formidable matriarch and presence in our lives. Yet as she was fading, we also spoke openly about the possibility of her leaving and that all we wanted was to support her choice, to allow her the freedom to leave or stay.

During her sickest days, each of us spoke gently with her, reassuring her that we would support whatever decision she made. I personally spent time with her massaging her back and legs, offering comfort, and holding the intention for ‘highest good’. I understood that highest good for her may not seem so for me.

The other choice we offered mom was ‘energy work’, something called IET or Integrated Energy Therapy. This technique is designed to communicate at the spiritual level and when you are as ill as Dorothy was, the spiritual gate is wide open. Our therapist, Genevieve, is gifted, gentle, mindful and truly tuned in. Working with this technique offered mom the additional energy she required to pursue freedom in whatever form she chose.

I believe that the combination of the family support we offered Dorothy, the honesty and the energy work, gave her a conduit in which to fully understand the choices available to her. She was embraced by love and respect. There was no drama, just a family united. And I believe this has made the difference in her recovery as she is alive again, in a way she was not even before she became sick.

Living is dying and dying is living. It serves no one to steer away from this reality and in fact allows us to be more whole as human beings. Dorothy chose life, for now, and in this choice I am observing a new zest for life.

My lesson in all of this is that we simply need to offer one another the freedom of choice, to know that living or dying is a personal choice that we get to make for ourselves. Giving permission to others to make this choice , to unselfishly let them go if we must, is the greatest gift we can offer another.

FREEDOM!

Nine Lives

I swear my mother-in-law Dorothy is like a cat; it is evident that she has nine lives. My only concern is that by my count she has lived at least seven of them. Two week’s ago she was clearly on a downhill trajectory, unable to recover from a severe gastrointestinal flu and complaining a terrible stomach pain. Multiple ER visits were leading us nowhere (more on that later). any attempt to receive additional care services were in vain. we were in that no man’s land where families often arrive. Even with three health care professionals in the family, we were at a loss as to how to support her.

I reached out to her former surgeon and a friend of mine who immediately referred her to Palliative Care and the physician who leads the community program. The first thing she did was totally clean up the medication Dorothy was consuming daily. It seemed radical, but several on the meds have known GI side effects. That was six days ago. This morning on the physician’s follow-up visit, Dorothy was a new woman. She is eating again and enjoying her food. Her mobility is improving. Her mood is light. She is BACK!

Polypharmacy, yes this is a diagnosis, is common in the elderly. Drugs get added and rarely removed. I am finding that drugs are not being reviewed on a regular basis by family physicians, which is by the way, part of their role. Family physicians are the gate keepers for their older patients. They need to be informed as to the side effects of medications and they need to monitor the possible drug interactions.

Secondly frequent ER visits by an elderly patient should be a red flag for those attending to her care. Several of my physician colleagues were dismayed to hear that no one connected the dots for Dorothy and no one referred her for follow-up care post hospital stay. I assume that those who discharged her thought she lived in a nursing home which is not the case.

Finally, we have a home care system which, at least from my experience to date, is not working. They have been contacted three times in the last two weeks, by myself, the residence where Dorothy lives, and the palliative care physician. to date they have not made a visit.

Let me be clear – I am over the moon grateful for her recovery! Fortunately she has more resilience than most women her age and an amazing network of family support. Without this she would no longer be here.

And I have learned that having a health care advocate is essential. My message to those of you reading this is to stand up for and speak out for the care of your elderly parents. Without my interventions and the help of my colleague, Dorothy would not have been referred to Palliative Care.

I now understand that we as a family needed to be more clear on insisting that she relieve a referral to home care follow-up before being discharged. My advice to you – don’t assume anything.

Finally be a bad ass – a squeaky wheel if you have to. I plan to follow-up with home care today to find out what is going on.

As we all age in our Third Act, we will need to advocate for ourselves as well. While we need to be reasonable in our requests, we need to speak up when we are not being heard, to stand for our own well-being, and to expect the health care we pay for in our taxes. I personally am not a big health care user at the same time I am currently awaiting an appointment to the Joint Assessment Clinic. It took my family physician five weeks to make the referral after we discussed it. Is this reasonable – I don’t honestly know. Is she busy – yes. The thing is, stay with your requests.

Okay, this is my RANT for today. The Canadian health care system is amazing as we all know. We need only yo look to our southern neighbors to realize that we are fortunate. And the system has its flaws which we can all work on to correct. Let’s work together on this, be grateful, show appreciation for our health care workers and advocate for ourselves and others.

The Invisible

While it is easy to embrace the concept of the Third Act in one’s sixties, what happens in the ensuing decades.

Over the last four weeks, along with other family members, I have been heavily involved with my 88-year-old mother-in-law. In her words, ‘it is not funny to be sick’.

Not only is it not funny, it is a wake-up call for all of who, despite our best efforts, will most likely be in her shoes one day. This winter’s GI bug hit her on December 27th and it has been a challenging upward battle ever since. Three visits to the ER. Traversing the waters of will she make it or not. Encouraging and cajoling her. Supporting my amazing and patient father-in-law. I admit to being overwhelmed at times, as we in our family all are.

I worked in the health care system for 25 years and for the last 10 years of my career I dedicated much of my time to developing geriatric services within my hospital and the Montreal community. Still I was unprepared when the issues I dealt with then landed firmly on my doorstep.

Before I continue, let me be clear that I am grateful for our health care system and for the many kindnesses we have experienced with the ER staff and mom’s surgeon. And, I have experienced the other side, the one I witnessed too often among my health care colleagues – the invisibility of the elderly.

It was during her second visit, with one nurse in particular, that edgy attitude, the “I can’t be bothered, she is simply old”. When I look at Dorothy I see the woman who raised six children, who at the age of 40+ returned to school to complete her High School diploma, an opportunity she was denied as a teenager. I see a women who then went on to college and became a draftsman and went on to work in drafting for a number of years, working well into her sixties. I see the amazing grandmother of thirteen, a grandmother who was actively engaged in their lives, the ‘go to’ babysitter. I see the great-grandmother of five. I see the woman who danced at my sixty-fifth birthday celebration only two years ago, with her partner of over 65 years Ron, and stunning the room with her agility. I see a little ‘Mighty Mouse” for although she is small of stature she has always been big of spirit. I see her quiet presence, the strength behind her husband Ron, the man who has been a community leader. I see the role model she has been for me and her entire family.

And I weep, for her and no longer being visible to some, for those who don’t even try to see her and what they are missing.

Don’t get me wrong – there is lots of pressure in health care. AND you and I know that the elderly do not command the recognition and respect they truly deserve in our society.

We need to MARCH – to show our colors, to share our accrued wisdom, to collectively stand together and not be overlooked. I want the elderly to be VISIBLE.

I am not an activist by nature and, in this year 2017, a year of new beginnings, I am wondering why I am being gifted with this situation. Yes, I want it to go away and selfishly I want Dorothy to come back to us, to health. And on the larger scale, I am witnessing the complacency of the young and the lack of stature we as the Third Actors, hold in society. I want to change that. I don’t have a strategy yet, and as I declare this intention here, I am sure the Universe will show me the way.

For those of you who read this, I ask for your prayers for an amazing 88-year-old named Dorothy. I pray for what is in her highest good.

For those of you who believe as I do that we must be visible, I welcome your input and ideas as to how we empower our generation, the baby boomers, the largest  wave of aging humans in history, and how we influence societal attitudes that continue to exist. Each of us has a role. I am seeking to understand mine.

If like me, you have an aging parent, make sure you remember them, the life they led, and the amazing feats the accomplished. The greatest gift we can offer is to SEE them!

love-on-the-rise

Until next time, let us rise in LOVE!

Five months have passed since my last blog. I won’t record all the usual platitudes related to time passing too quickly; time has simply passed. the time needed to wonder and wander, to reflect and explore, to experience sadness and grief as well as curiosity and exhilaration. This is the great duality of any journey forward, of the inevitable changes that life offers us.

In my ‘weekly courage’ message this morning, was the following: Spirit has little regard for human comfort. The spiritual path is one of relentless change and letting go until you are stripped of all that is no longer working for you.

That pretty much sums it up. My experience of the last few months has been one of re-evaluating what occupies me. To the notion of what I refer to as ‘Space Management’, I am exploring what takes up space in my life and asking is it important, does it make a difference to me and others, is it something I want to continue to do and more. It is a challenge for as I examine each question I have begun to realize that many of my ‘doings’ stem from a sense of obligation, of duty, which I have to say surprises me. I had thought that my choices were predicated on what is truly important and engaging. Not always so!

What now, I ask. Back to the origins of this blog: learning to release what no longer serves me, relaxing in the space I am creating, allowing highest good opportunities to show themselves to me. OMG this sounds so easy and OMG it is not. I find myself in judgment, and occasionally worry. What if my new life is not as engaging as the life I am leaving behind? Yes this is silliness I know and yet, I am sure you will agree if you are on the journey with me, that it is real.

Here is the other side. I have released several aspects of business and with each release I do feel lighter. I am enjoying the freedom afforded me as the result of fewer clients and projects on the books. I enjoyed the opportunities the lengthy fall provided and hours spent in the garden.I recently qualified in a new psychometric evaluation called Lumina Emotion which I look forward to offering others. I have more time to paint and write, if I chose.

Here is my observation – it is easy to get bogged down in what you are giving up and lose sight of what is opening up. It is challenging to trust your intentions and let them unfold when the time is right. It is equally challenging to be patient with the process and forgiving of yourself when you have an emotional reaction to the changes in your life. All this to say, this is the journey, this is the experience of being stripped down and letting go.

So to all of you out there who are, like me, walking in your Third Act, I have simply this advice to offer you today. Love yourself and love the journey. Embrace what you feel, cry if you must. Allow yourself the opportunity of stripping away the stuff that fills your space but no longer fuels your spirit. It is your time; it is my time. We do get to choose and I for one plan to choose well. And I get it, now may not be the time for choosing as I am still releasing. The space needs some more de-cluttering and organization before I begin redecorating.

infusing-the-grid

Infusing the GRID,
Peace, love, courage, grace streaming
into the seams of  life.

This painting, Infusing the GRID with its companion Haiku,  is an apt metaphor for the experience of this journey. As you infuse your grid, chose that which fuels your spirit and helps you create the Third Act which is distinctly yours.

Until next time…..

Mindfulness

During the Positive Psychology conference, one of my favorite workshops was with a colleague of mine Marla Warner who led us through a number of mindfulness activates. She actually saved my day as this was the final workshop of the afternoon and I was feeling the fatigue of a full conference schedule. Her presentation and the activities were a clear reminder of how restorative mindfulness is.

Just to clarify, many people assume that mindfulness is meditation. In fact, meditation is a form of mindfulness, and mindfulness is so much more. As defined by Jon Kabat Zin, mindfulness means ‘paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally’.

In recent weeks, with a full schedule and the task of working with Jim’s family to mover his parents to a Senior Citizen’s residence, I have engaged mindfulness in many ways. First, I have a daily routine which includes a number of exercises and stretches. At the end of the routine I have a mantra is use as follows: I am the Light of my Soul, I am bountiful, I am beautiful, I am bliss, I AM, I AM. This is followed by an Ohm and the setting of my intentions for the day.

Regardless of your choices, a daily practice such as this immediately brings you to a mindful state. Accompanied by breathing, this type of practice brings you to a place of calmness and clarity.

The second aspect which has kept me grounded throughout a time of significant transition, are the intentions set for new beginnings, in this case on behalf of our family. Living intentionally, stating clearly what you want to attract to your life, is a mindful act. Bringing yourself back to these intentions repeatedly, keeps you grounded, centered and focused. These are just a couple of examples of integrating mindful practices in your day.

Of course mindfulness is linked to positivity. As a practice mindfulness can help you literally sever the link between negative thoughts and emotions. The practice forces you to stop and to notice what is rummaging around in your head and what feelings are associated with these thought patterns. Without noticing, without being mindful, you cannot begin re-programing your thoughts.

So what can one be mindful of on a daily basis? Breath, contact, movement (such as walking a labyrinth), bodily sensations, feelings and emotions, thoughts attitudes and beliefs. You begin to realize that there is so much you take for granted on a daily basis without examining what unconsciously propels you forward in life.

Mindfulness is a skill – it takes practice. Over time it changes the way your brain works – you can use it to break down the circuits that promote negativity and build the circuits linked to positivity, taking advantage of “neuroplasticity”, the fact that your brain can be re-programmed.
Research regarding mindfulness includes the following benefits:

decreased blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension, reduced cholesterol, improved immunity, reduced pain and anxiety, improved sleep, and decreased inflammation.

Add to this, mindfulness leads to more optimism and decreased depression, greater self-awareness, the opportunity to change negative thought patterns, improved coping abilities, greater efficiency and productivity, improved learning capabilities and memory, and developing a sense of inner calm.

As you review this list, can you see the opportunities for all of us in our Third Act. The great gift of this time in our life is that you get to choose how you live. Many of you have the gift of more time. An important and useful part of this time is the investment in a few mindful practices which can serve to help you stay grounded, to intentionally explore the options for this time in your life and invest in your health.

Some Additional Mindful Practices: Meditation; Prayer, Yoga, Creative endeavors, Gratitude Practices, Mindful Eating (putting the fork down between bites and savoring the flavors), acknowledgement of others and what they bring into your life, washing dishes, gardening and so much more.

Consider this my invitation to you to put aside time every day for yourself for some type of mindful practice.

In mid-June I attended the Canadian Positive Psychology Conference. One of the questions I carried with me throughout the conference is how can we engage the principles of Positive Psychology to enhance our experience of the Third Act.

It is interesting to note that, at least at the conference, there was little focus on or dialogue regarding this question. Of greater interest to the attendees is the impact of Positive Psychology in education and the workplace. Understood, as this is probably where the greatest opportunities lie. And let’s not be the ‘lost generation’ in this important field of study.

Which brings me back to the whole idea of ‘Flourishing in the Third Act’. So let me share a few of my ‘take-aways’ from the conference and explore how these apply to the Third Act.

Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity and Love 2.0, was the opening key-note speaker. I find her ‘Broaden and Build’ Theory very compelling, as she examines what positivity versus negativity offers us in life. Here is a synopsis of what I took away from her presentation and how I believe this applies to our experience of the Third Act.

Central to Barbara’s research regarding Positivity is what she refers to as the Broaden and Build Theory. BROADEN implies expansive. Unlike negative emotions, which narrow people’s ideas about possible actions (eg. Response to dangerous situation) and outcomes, positive emotions do the opposite – they broaden your ideas about possible actions, open your awareness to a wider range of thoughts and actions, sparking your interest and urging you to explore and learn

Positivity opens us…our hearts and our minds, making us more receptive and creative.

When I consider this concept, I see the importance for Third Acters. Here’s why. Personally I have approached this age with some reticence, largely because of the beliefs I held regarding ‘retirement’. Of course my beliefs have been fed by society’s reaction to this stage of life as well. If however, we approach the Third Act with positivity and optimism, refusing to accept what societal beliefs have been, we have this great opportunity to broaden the possibilities of what is possible, desirable and engaging for us. Key to this notion then of broadening is our ability to exercise our curiosity and explore all the possibilities that light you up and which may have been lingering for a while.

The second aspect of Fredrickson’s theory is building, or more accurately resource building.
Again, if you approach life through the lens of negativity and neutrality you will constrain your experience of your Third Act, and your knowledge, of the world. Positivity does the opposite – it draws you out to explore, to mix up your world in unexpected ways. This leads to new learning and gains in knowledge. All of this may be useful during the Third Act, giving you the opportunity to broaden your sense of possibility, leading you to curiously explore what may be next and broadening your experience and desire to learn.

The Broaden and Build Theory holds that – Positive emotions were consequential to our human ancestors because over time those good feelings broadened our ancestor’s mindsets and built their resources for the future.

Positivity broadens and builds. It transforms people and helps them become their best. And when at their best, people live longer, and they have more fulfilling lives.

In other words, they flourish.

Positivity also offers you the following:

  • It opens possibilities,
  • improves cognition (that’s important!),
  • has the physical effect of broadening and opening our posture (less stooping!),
  • and affects how you view the world.

 

Like a good diet filled with nutrients, it builds over time, improving your resilience in the face of difficulties, improving your heart rate variability and your immune systems, all essential ingredients to healthy aging.

The Third Act can be a generative time in your life and your capacity to approach it with a positive attitude enhances your ability to broaden and build your life. So let’s imagine for a moment that we all agreed to begin this great experiment where we approached each day with a few simple questions/intentions:

  • I wonder what is possible today?
  • I have always wanted to learn more about….; why not now?
  • I plan to approach each day with optimism, gratitude and wonder; to be a positive influence for both myself and others
  • What a great opportunity I now have. My obligations and responsibilities have lessened. The only responsibility I have now is ME!

Speaking about this great experiment, are you not curious about what we as Third Acters can create when we take this approach; how we may influence the future? Just sayin’!

“You need two things to get unstuck: Clarity and Courage. And, clarity is the reward of having courage.”

It has occurred to me in the last two weeks that courage is something to embrace as the opportunities for self-expression continue to unfold in my Third Act. Why courage? I am finding it challenging to crack open the eggshell of old habits and daily routines which have governed my life for so long. One of my greatest gifts in life has been my purposefulness and goal orientation. One of my greatest liabilities in life is my purposefulness and goal orientation!

It takes courage to face it down, to challenge it, to understand how I trip myself up by relying on what I have always known. It is a bit of a trap, for even though we can agree that purposefulness and goal orientation is a great thing, I also see the limitations, the blinders these habits impose.

Enough self-flagellation; this is not meant to be a critique of me. The question really is ‘now what’?

In a moment of clarity, the other day I realized that what I really wanted to release was the ‘need to work’. Yes need. I don’t know how it has been for you, but I was raised in the school of responsibility, obligation and ‘shoulds’. The reality for me is that I no longer need to work. Now on the government payroll with CPP and OAP, I may not be completely set for life and I know that our financial health is strong. So what is this need thing, this drive?

In its place I would much rather embrace the joy of work and be open to whatever that may be. I still love what I do and offer clients. I thoroughly enjoy coaching, facilitation and teaching. Am I not fortunate? And there are as many opportunities out there for me now as there were 20 years ago when I started my business, perhaps even more.

And here’s where courage comes in – saying ‘NO’ to the less than perfect opportunities, releasing the work that lingers that no longer engages me, because I don’t need to hang on. This gives me the space for clarity, the opportunity for opening new avenues of connecting with and serving people. None of this is a surprise; I have been ruminating on this for a while.

I am a person that also enjoys structure and routine and again I am asking if I need it. With summer upon us, I dream of morning walks, time on the front porch in the early morning sun, gardening and painting, hammock time with a good book, evenings in the gazebo sharing a glass of wine with friends. My usual work schedule does not accommodate these things or this life style.

As I envision the July and August landscape, I see great possibility. The second week of July is fully booked with a series of workshops we will be facilitating from Quebec City to Vancouver. Yes, it will be an intense week. More importantly, by having the courage to speak honestly with our clients, we will be engaged in work that we love and which we believe will make a significant difference for our client. Clarity was our reward.

Then guess what, the remainder of July and August is a fallow field. Will I have the courage to ‘BE’ in it allowing time for new possibilities to emerge and clarity to grow?

So onto you. Some things to consider. Are some of your greatest strengths also your liabilities? It is a great exercise to recognize this.

Is it time for you to address some on the repeating patterns that have governed your life and crack open the egg? What would you like to replace these patterns with? Remember if you can’t name it, it is unlikely you will get it.

Summer is such a wonderful time to relax and allow yourself to sink into the days. Why not do so? I plan to and hope you will join me, perhaps even share with me a few of your AHA’s that show up.

Have the courage to let go of what you have always known and create space for clarity to walk in the door.