Learning through Grief
I began this post before the untimely loss of my best friend — Bess my beloved 14 1/3 year old border collie. Acceptance soothes my broken heart when acknowledging this will happen to each and everyone of us and everyone we love, that this behest of time is a transformation of life. I continue learning through my loss of Bess…such as doing what I can then letting go, and the power of thought and perspective. I anticipate sharing more from time to time on insights gained through this experience…
“All of life’s experiences are to be either enjoyed or learned from.”
— Alan Cohen
Bess gave me both.
I am curious to know how you process grief. A sage shared this short (18 minute) video with me. Hopefully, you will benefit as well — not just in a time of need.
The color red symbolizes steadfast faith. Some Christians believe it represents Christ’s blood. But the cardinal inspiration I’m talking about isn’t from the Catholic church — it’s from those eye-catching red birds that perk up winter’s indeterminate grey, like a spark of hope in darkness.
When faced with challenges like enduring the winter cold, the cardinal bird chooses to sing a lovely song. It stays strong and positive, exhibiting persistence and grace.
I am increasingly convinced that Mother Nature guides us by offering her own Divine space to us as a spiritual well. We simply need to open our eyes to see, accept, and contemplate her generosity.
Such is the case with the red cardinal.
Some believe the cardinal encourages us to “find our life song,” to create new ways to love our life and show our gratitude for it.”
Others say the cardinal warns us to be mindful of our thoughts and what we are creating. Are we continually replaying past hurts, thereby deepening the groove of misery (and setting the stage for more to come), or are we choosing to be at peace in the present moment? It may be helpful to visualize that red stop sign when these negative thoughts occur.
Many cultures believe cardinals are messengers from someone who has passed.
Five years ago on the morning of New Year’s Eve, my dear friend Mary died from breast cancer. A lover of nature and all animals, Mary encircled her home in the woods with numerous bird feeders. On the day of her memorial a red cardinal held vigil at the window to the room where Mary passed in her home. We believed it was telling us that Mary’s spirit lives on.
Others have had similar experiences. How ’bout you? Do you have your own story of a symbolic message a cardinal carried into your life?
Summer 2018 Rainy. Grey. Humid. Rainy. Grey. Humid. Flooding. Scorching heat. Rainy. Grey. Humid. Flooding. Scorching heat. Bugs extraordinaire. Make me run inside for shelter. AC. A spurt of sun appears. Some tomatoes wear tough rain jackets, many others split on the vine while unlucky peppers turn soggy rather than red and basil’s aromatic gifts are non-existent this year. The grill waited to be fired up but the fire and enthusiasm in me drowned out.
What to make of this autistic summer? Although many people disagree on the “causes” of autism and of climate change, they both exhibit blatantly foreboding signs:
Climate change – an increase in the frequency and strength of extreme events (storms, floods, droughts) that threaten human health and safety.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characteristics – social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges, and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors.
Six full days at best I could work in the yard this summer, and grill on two. Tall grass is as unkempt as the autistic’s personal hygiene. Weeds are poised to take over. They know I will not be tugging at them in the rain or with mosquitos biting my neck. Arms. Legs. Scratching for relief. Scratching. Scratching. Where is the relief? Summer use to be a break from the long, cold, stressful winter but Mother Nature’s fighting, hitting, kicking, biting, throwing objects from her autistic corner. Does she feel cornered?
Autistics struggle with severe anxiety, sensory dysfunction, and deficits in social communication. Half are considered aggressive toward others, and nearly one-third of autistic adults are unable to use spoken language to communicate.
I hear the thunderous banging and wailing. Her words trail behind the clouds…the rain, and tears of desperation. I see her utter frustration.
I often viewed challenges as problems, headaches, when in reality my narrow perspective was the constricting chokehold. My limited vision obstructed a panorama of possibilities in what appeared a seemingly bleak situation.
Hearing someone say they were so busy looking at the thorn that they missed the rose, wiped the spattered looking-glass for me. Working in the garden and studying the Tao pryed open the door to a scopic reality.
While I now see both the roses and the thorns, I am learning to not judge either as good or bad but as a unified connection, one simply needing the other in life.
Digging in the dirt…unearthing rocks, weeds, my thoughts turn to life’s struggles…times my heart was breaking and I did not see a way out, a reasonable solution, how to get past the pain of the moment. Not knowing what else to do, I dug in the dirt. I weeded. I carried rocks. Pails of small ones, and wheelbarrows of large ones until I ached. Ached so bad I could barely sleep but went back out and did it all over again the next day. And the next.
Unable to remove the boulder that was there, and would always be there like unresolved abysmal hurt, I tried to conceal it. Find a way around it. Moving on, I cultivated the impermeable soil to breathe and grow while filling my thoughts with affirmations and new perspectives. Taking time to nurture nature, nature began nurturing me.
If you’ve ever felt dishonored or abandoned, turn to nature. Love her. Honor her. Nurture her to soothe the soul. She is always there for you.
Take orphans — or any neglected children — into the garden. Create. Nurture. Love. Watch them grow.
Photo by Jamie Mink on Unsplash
Photo by sean-malone from Unsplash
Photo by Tong Nguyen van on Unsplash
Photo by Robert Fischetto on Unsplash
Photo by Matthew Pla on Unsplash
Featured black/white photo (original in color) by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash.
World Tai Chi & Qigong Day sat on my bucket list for several years. With no events offered in my small, semi-rural community, I made up my mind last year to drive 1.5 hours to participate. The powerful group energy felt like a profoundly calming universal hug, not to mention the good people I met and now have the pleasure of studying the Tao with. Yes, I make the 3 hour roundtrip drive to do this monthly but it brings me so much pleasure it’s a worthy investment. Now, World Tai Chi & Qigong Day is an annual must do event for me. (FYI, it’s always the last Saturday in April at 10AM local time.)
As an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), safeguarding my own peace and serenity (aka well-being) is critical for me. Detaching from the bombardment of frenetic and frantic energy through sensationalized “news” while staying engaged with humans and the environment is key, and I’m meeting numerous others with similar observations. Like the waitress who sadly said, “I’m serving more and more families who come in and sit glued to their phones rather than talk to each other. It doesn’t make sense!” Or the fellow concert goer who high-fived me after first responding in shock, “You did what?! I’d like to give up this thing too and get my life back.”
For the record, I recognize some value in having technology like GPS or locating a restaurant in an unfamiliar city, but it’s not worth the expense to me — financially, mentally or emotionally. I just don’t need technology. My life M.O. has changed to “discarding” rather than “adding” non-essentials. I value my time more. I see how easily I could become addicted. And I see the stress — whether to the user or those around them — from constantly pinging phones interrupting each moment, deteriorating eye contact and banishing personal interaction. I see others trying to remedy their lives after their electronic financial accounts were hacked… What I don’t see is the value of turning my life over to technology.
But anyway, the point of this post is to encourage you to try World Tai Chi & Qigong Day if you haven’t already. Whether you are or aren’t engaged with technology, Tai Chi and Qigong are certain to bring a calmness into your life. And couldn’t we all use that these days?
I grew up seeing public service messages of a Native American crying about litter strewn across the land and water they honored. The message stuck. I don’t litter. And I honor, I love, Mother Earth and our environment.
When Earth Day began in 1970, it seemed like a good idea at the time. It still does. We just need 364 more days of it. Worldwide.
In my lifetime of globalization, littering escalated to what you see below. The five major oceans on our planet all have garbage patches. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is larger than Texas. Unthinkable, isn’t it?!
Today, I am the one shedding tears for how humans and corporations worldwide are polluting our land and oceans. There are plenty of examples showing how we are destroying our environment. You’ve seen them. I have too. Some become active or proactive but too many turn away in apathy saying “there is nothing one can do” yet it is up to each of us to care, to not look away.
A long time ago I heard the sentiment, “Ignore your health long enough and maybe it will go away.” That stuck with me too. Ignore problems and maybe they’ll go away… maybe. Maybe they’ll snowball and be harder and more costly to solve. Or, maybe they’ll become unsolvable. Call me an insurance salesman’s dream — I’d rather pay now than pay later. Maybe, probably, if we ignore the environment long enough, it will go away.
“From poisoning and injuring marine life to the ubiquitous presence of plastics in our food to disrupting human hormones and causing major life-threatening diseases and early puberty, the exponential growth of plastics is threatening our planet’s survival.” from the Earth Day Network.
Has the message stuck?
What are you willing to do to honor Mother Earth and our planet? Will you commit to stop using plastic bags, bottled water, and plastic tableware? How about microbead cleansers? Will you educate others about plastic pollution in our environment and to our bodies? Share a video on the sea of garbage, lobby for bio benign plastic packaging, boycott companies responsible for oil spills? Get creative. No matter how large or small, we each need to do our part.
ACT. To make a difference.
And as Earth Day approaches on April 22nd, remember the oceans too.
I do not understand the language of texting, or bar codes containing paragraphs of information. I do not understand how people do not know how to count change, what their own phone number is, or how communication and society have morphed into a world of antonyms.
Words such as cooperation, negotiation, impartial, conversation, politeness, and respect are no longer understood. They have become foreign concepts in this foreign land I no longer understand.
“Customer” service now means self service.
A “doctor” visit means getting a prescription.
“Friendships” have become 1,000 or 100 strangers I don’t really know.
“Conversation” was an informal exchange of ideas but often appears as a one-sided dump.
Once upon a time a “debate” meant a public discussion of opposing arguments on a particular topic. Today it is who can interrupt the most and shout the loudest slander.
Microwaving a prepared meal is called “cooking.”
“Excuse me” has fallen to the wayside for immediate interruption or unacknowledged bumping into.
Here you go replaced “thank you.”
Intimidating hurtfultrolls lurk on “social” media.
“Personal responsibility” now looks like lawsuits and blame.
Family time means individual members sitting next to each other staring into screens.
“Unbiased journalism” is dead. Infomercials disguised as articles, and fake news abound.
Health “care” is really the health industry.
“Public” servants are politicians passing legislation written bylobbyists.
Marketing is the sugar-coated word for lies. Companies tout their products to take my money yet when I attempt to get help for the “failed product” it is usually in the Philippines, Dubai or any other place I can barely understand the instruction to fix the problem for the “inferior product” that was advertised as “the world’s best” that I now wish I hadn’t purchased.
My telephone landline use to bring news from friends or family. Now, I cannot answer it for fear of telemarketers and scammers breaking into my home.
The tech industry told us they were making our lives simpler, less complicated, paperless, and more convenient when in truth our lives are more complicated, more disrupted, more vulnerable and disconnected, and I pay to discard more junk mail than food or household waste.
I do not recognize what I was taught in school. Like being an American meant I was free and there was liberty and justice for all when in actuality my government sold out my rights to self-serving corporations.
America has turned topsy-turvy, upside down into a country of antonyms. I am native to this foreign land where nothing is as it’s purported.
My dictionary indicates virtual reality is “not physically existing but made by software to appear to do so.” As far as I’m concerned it’s based on a book of antonyms. I’m not ready to discard my dictionary and thesaurus for a new reality. I prefer to call it what it really is while I still have the mindset to know what it really is.
Reality – “the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.”