Monthly Archives: July 2010

Revisiting Loss & Letting Go

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White dove flying in the cloudsFifteen years ago, one of my closest friends committed suicide at the age of 32. The day on which I found out was absolutely and unequivocally the worst day of my life.  Time seemed to stop and I felt shocked, sad, and numb all at the same time. I cried and cried until there were no tears left in my body and I felt a depth of pain that I didn’t even know was possible to experience.

Time Heals All Wounds – Or Does It?

The tears and the sadness lasted for a long, long time, but I gradually moved past the depth of my pain and was increasingly able to take comfort in my happy memories of a person whom I felt blessed to have known.  Although I don’t know if one is ever completely “over” a loss of a loved one, I thought that I had mostly moved on after the passage of so much time.  As the old saying goes, “time heals all wounds.”  Or does it?  Surprisingly, I recently realized that I may still have quite a bit of grieving and healing to do over the loss of my dear friend.

When going through boxes in our storage unit in preparation for our recent move, I came across what I had labeled my “Joe box.” Shortly after his death, I packed away all of the mementos I had of Joe – cards, photos, etc. – because it was just too painful to have to look at them and realize that I would never see my friend again.  I have carried that box with me through a number of moves over the years, but I have never opened it. I didn’t think much about this all those times because I was also carrying countless other mementos and collections with me through my life journey.  It’s only now, when I’m making a concerted effort to downsize and become more of a “minimalist,” that I actually thought about going through my “Joe box.”  Yet, when it came down to it, I couldn’t bring myself to do it…

Exploring the Issues of Loss & Letting Go

My hesitance to revisit my mementos of Joe surprised me and I feel it bears some examination.  For this reason, I will explore the issues of loss and letting go in this post. We have all experienced a number of losses in our lives and they affect us in different ways.  Although death, particularly that which is tragic and unexpected, is likely the most painful of all losses, other types of losses also have a lasting impact on our psyches and our lives.  Included among these are divorce, romantic break-ups, deterioration of friendships, job loss, and financial loss.  Loss is an unavoidable part of life, yet some among us navigate its waters more smoothly than others.

Difficulty in Letting Go…

A friend once told me that I didn’t know how to let go of things and pointed out that I held on to people and things even when they were no longer useful or productive in my life. She was right… I would always try to remain friends with my boyfriends after we broke up and held on to childhood, school, and work friends even when we no longer had much in common.  I would keep cards, letters, articles, notebooks, and journals from throughout my lifespan such that these items filled countless boxes in my various homes and apartments.  My closets would be stuffed with clothes, some of which I hadn’t worn in years, on the off chance that I might want to wear them again one day.  The stuff continued to pile up and I didn’t even question it until recently.

My “Stuff” is Affecting My Health

When I look at my laundry list of health complaints in “You Can Heal Your Life” and examine the probable causes outlined by Louise Hay, I see strikingly similar statements over and over again:

  • Holding on to old ideas.
  • Fear of letting go.
  • A refusal to change.
  • Stuck in the past.
  • Fear of going forward.

In fact, the probable cause specified for ALL chronic diseases is “A refusal to change. Fear of the future.  Not feeling safe.” Since at least a few of my ailments may be classified as chronic, it appears that my inability to let go of the past and move forward courageously into the future is adversely affecting my health. As I’ve failed to get the message of my long-standing health issues, new ones have cropped up to capture my attention.

Clearing Out the Backlog

I didn’t really think I was stuck in the past or holding on to old ideas, but I when I was confronted with all of the stuff in our storage unit, I could no longer deny it! Of course, the physical backlog of “junk” that I’ve been carrying around for many years is not the only build up I need to address, but it’s a start!

Change can occur in any or a combination of the dimensions of our life experience:  physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. I have chosen to start with the physical in going through all of my stuff and letting go of that which I no longer need.  In doing so, I have begun to free up energy which had been tied up in holding on to so many items from the past. The storage unit is almost cleaned out and we will soon be relinquishing it completely.   This is a good first step for me in letting go of my past.

Making the Connection

Back to Joe and the issue of loss… I realize that I need to push myself to go through that box. I need to allow myself to do whatever grieving is left to do so I can move forward in my life.  Of course, I do not need to throw everything away or forget a person who meant so much to me.  I can and should always remember him, but I should remember him with joy and a light heart instead of sadness and angst.

Up until a few years ago, I would always feel intense sadness on the anniversary of Joe’s death.  I commented on this to a friend and she said that if I wanted to honor Joe, I should do it on his birthday, not on his “death day.” Wise words from a wise person!

Facing Things Instead of Avoiding Them

I believe it’s important to face things in life instead of avoid them. There are a number of issues from my past that I have been avoiding for years.  Some of them are so buried that I don’t even know or remember what they are, but as I progress with my healing project, I am uncovering different layers of my psyche and addressing whatever accompanying challenges arise. I didn’t realize that I still had grieving to do over Joe, but now that I have unearthed that reality, I must face it head on.

Celebrating a Wonderful Person & A Powerful Bond

I have decided to go through the “Joe box” on what would have been Joe’s 48th birthday this September.  I will celebrate his life and our relationship and remember the close bond that we once shared.  I will revisit the loss of someone so very dear to me, release the sadness of his absence from my present day life, and embrace the powerful truth that he will always live on in my heart and in my memory.

Closing Quote

“I joyfully move on to new levels of experience.  All is well.” – Louise Hay

Lack of Connection

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Woman Standing Alone on the BeachAbout a month ago, my neighbor of 2.5 years was taken to the hospital in the middle of the afternoon.  He never returned… I since learned that he has terminal brain cancer and is living out his final days in a local hospital.  I had passed him in the hallway many times, but had only uttered a quick “hello” to him before continuing on my way.  I never took the time to get to know him, or vice versa.

I don’t really know any of my neighbors. We pass each other on occasion, sometimes smiling, sometimes nodding, but rarely interrupting our busy schedules to take the time to get to know each other. We all have more important things to do, it seems.

How Many Friends Do We Have?

I have close to 200 Facebook friends, but very few people I can honestly call real friends, and even fewer with whom I connect on a deep level.  We have more and more ways to connect with others through the advances in technology, but the level of connection that is happening is becoming increasingly superficial. All of the technology in the world can’t change the fact that we are growing more and more socially isolated in our society.  Loneliness is becoming the biggest epidemic in our country, even bigger than cancer, AIDS, or heart disease.

No One in Whom to Confide

I’ve wanted to write about the topic of lack of connection for quite some time, but a recent radio broadcast finally spurred me to do it.  I enjoy listening to radio talk show host Dennis Prager’s weekly “Happiness Hour” and caught a “Best Of” presentation from 2006 a few days ago.  This show was based upon a Washington Post report that a sharply growing number of people say they have no one in whom to confide. In fact, 25% of Americans have no confidants at all!  This is double the number who felt similarly isolated in 1985.

Fewer Connections Now Than in 1985

Of those people who do have close confidants, the number has dwindled from an average of three people in 1985 to only two people in 2004.  For many people, their spouse is the only person in whom they confide. This makes them increasingly vulnerable should they face difficulties in that key relationship or should their spouse become ill or die.

I learned that I am not alone in not having relationships with my neighbors.  Only 8% of those surveyed in the national study on which the Washington Post article was based counted a neighbor among their circle of confidants. It appears that most people aren’t taking the time to get to know their neighbors beyond a casual nod or hello.

I Am Fortunate But…

After listening to Prager’s show and reading the Post article, I realize that I am more fortunate than most in terms of my relationships. Not only can I confide in my husband, but I also have a small group of friends with whom I can share my deep thoughts and concerns.  Still, I battle loneliness on a regular basis and I don’t know what to do about it.

I don’t mind spending time alone. In fact, I am quite comfortable in my own company and I enjoy the freedom and ease of working from home.  It isn’t merely the lack of the physical presence of others that troubles me.  It is the lack of emotional connection with other people that has me feeling isolated and alone. I yearn for the deep and honest communication that I enjoyed so much in my earlier years.

Things Used to Be Different

I recently went through some old boxes in preparation for a local move.  I found a shoebox full of cards and letters which I had received from friends during my teens and twenties.  I realized that I had many deep friendships at that point in my life. The letters were both poignant and meaningful and although I enjoyed reading them again, I was struck by the dearth of such correspondence in the present time.

In the past few years, I went through several significant life crises and found myself with few people in whom I could confide. I do not feel very close to those in my family and I only have a couple of friends to whom I could possibly see myself reaching out. What happened between my twenties and now that has rendered me so isolated?  And more importantly, what can I do about it?

It’s Not Just About Meeting People

It isn’t as simple as just getting out there and meeting new people.  I don’t want more acquaintances… I mentioned the 200 Facebook “friends,” many of whom are actually just mere acquaintances. Of course, you have to walk before you can run and a close friendship is not something that materializes overnight.  It requires time, effort, and at least a moderate level of risk.  One has to put him or herself out there in order to gain closeness with another human being.

I believe that a large reason why people are so isolated is because they don’t allow themselves to be vulnerable with others. They don’t risk sharing their innermost thoughts, for fear of being rejected.  So they remain safe and alone.  This is what I have done…  At some point in the last four or five years, I closed myself off from the world. I did this not only because I feared being hurt, but also because I felt so different from others.  I felt that no one understood me or could possibly understand me, so I stopped trying.

Time To Turn It Around

I am now experiencing the consequences of my actions from all those years ago and I don’t like the way it feels. It’s time to turn it around.  Starting this blog was a big first step in this effort.  At first, my plan was to be completely anonymous in my writing, but my wise husband convinced me otherwise.  He told me that I would find it liberating to be open and honest about myself and my efforts to heal that which is broken about my life.  He was right.

It’s been scary at times, but I have become less concerned about the judgment of others and more accepting of myself and my life journey. I may not tell everyone I know about my blog, but I do broadcast my posts on Facebook, so it’s not exactly private.  Plus, this blog is on the Internet. I accept that anyone and everyone can read my thoughts, come what may.

Next Steps…

It’s time to evaluate my existing relationships and decide upon a course of action. There will be some people to whom I would like to reach out more often.  There will be others for whom the status quo is the best course of action.  Sadly, there may be some relationships which lack any real possibility of increased closeness.  I will also need to make more of an effort to cultivate new relationships. That means getting out there more often to meet new people and taking the risk to forge closer bonds to the precious few with whom I feel emotional resonance.

I may get rejected. I may find that some relationships have run out of steam and need to fall by the wayside.  But I may also deepen some connections and end up feeling less lonely. It’s all part of my healing project.  It’s not just about healing my health, although that is a critical part of my journey.  I must always remember that healing is comprised of body, mind and spirit. My spirit yearns for more connection, so connect I will!

My Week of Silence

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Woman with Her Finger on Her LipsI just spent over a week without speaking.  No, I didn’t go to an ashram or a silent retreat; I simply had no voice for nine days.

My laryngitis was related to the flu virus that I mentioned in my last post and although it wasn’t unexpected, I never thought it would last so long.  However, since I am a big believer in the messages of our physical ailments, I decided to look for the meaning and lessons of my “week of silence.”

What Does Louise Hay Say?

As a first step in my search for answers, I referenced “You Can Heal Your Life” to see what Louise Hay had to say about laryngitis.  While I generally recognize myself and my situation in her remarks, I was left with a huge question mark on this one.  Louise Hay’s probable causes for laryngitis are:

  • So mad you can’t speak
  • Fear of speaking up
  • Resentment of authority

I am not an angry person. In fact, I rarely feel much anger at all.  I do experience a fair amount of frustration, but the thought of my being so angry I cannot speak is highly foreign to me. I do sometimes fear speaking up for myself, but this was not an issue for me around the time I lost my voice.  I also resent authority at times, but my rebellious streak has been tempered by age and I don’t feel this is a prominent issue for me any longer.

Could Louise Be Wrong This Time?

Could it be that the great Louise Hay is wrong in this instance? Possibly… She has stated that her probable causes ring true approximately 95% of the time.  Perhaps I’m i n that other 5%.  If I am angry at all, it’s about some of my life circumstances, such as my health issues and my career woes.  I have some anger toward myself for my role in these issues, particularly my failure to stick with a single career path long enough to become an expert in a certain profession.  But I would have to say that these are more frustrations than anger and are so long-standing that I would doubt they would lead to an acute bout of laryngitis in July 2010.

Worse Before It Gets Better?

One possibility that I have entertained is that my Healing Project has increased my focus on issues and feelings which had previously simmered more deeply beneath my conscious awareness.   In some respects, it feels as if things have gotten worse instead of better since I began this journey – and this blog – five months ago.  Sometimes things do get worse before they get better, but I am still optimistic that I can and will heal myself and my life in one year.

Great Communicator

Although Louise Hay may not be spot on regarding the probable causes for my laryngitis, I have derived a number of personal insights concerning losing my voice.  First, a bit of background information… I love to talk and am known to be a very talkative and animated person.  I have been a member of Toastmasters International for over six years and have been working on further honing my verbal communication skills through that venue.  I believe that one of my greatest strengths is my ability to communicate well through both writing and speaking.

Taking Our Blessings For Granted

We often take our gifts and our blessings for granted; it’s human nature to reflect more on what’s missing than on what’s present in our lives. I never really thought twice about being able to vocalize my thoughts and feelings whenever I desired to do so.  However, in my “week of silence,” the only sounds which were emitted from my lips were quiet whispers.  I was unable to speak on the phone or even verbalize a food order in a restaurant.  When a passerby said hello to me, I could only nod or wave in response.

Unable to Speak

It was difficult for me not to be able to talk, not just logistically but emotionally as well. I was rendered much more dependent upon my husband to do things for me and to be my “voice.”  I reflected upon those who are physically unable to speak for long periods of time and felt great empathy for them.  I wondered if they needed to carry a sign around wherever they went to alert the world of their handicap and if they were perpetually armed with a notepad and pen so that they could communicate even the most basic of ideas to others.

I also thought about Roger Ebert, the film critic rendered unable to speak as a result of throat and mouth cancer.  I saw him on Oprah earlier this year and marveled at how he has adapted to the changes in his life.  I saw his happiness at simply being alive and his gratitude toward his wife for how much she has helped him through his years of illness.

The Importance of Listening

What were my lessons from my week of silence?  I can think of a few… First, I am profoundly grateful for my gift for speaking and the ease with which I generally communicate through the spoken word.  Second, I realized that I need to spend more time in silence; that I need to listen and reflect more than I usually do.

I remember an old saying which expresses that we were given two ears and one mouth because we should listen twice as much as we speak.  I became aware last week that I don’t listen enough, as I am too preoccupied with talking.  When my husband and I go on long walks, I generally do most of the talking, but last week I ended up listening more to what he had to say.  When I’m not clamoring for “air time,” I get to learn more about others, including my wonderful husband, who is my best friend in the world.

Focus on What’s Right, Not What’s Wrong

Finally, I learned to appreciate the health that I do have instead of dwelling upon my niggling health complaints.  I was reminded that what we focus upon grows, so I should focus on my physical blessings instead of on my defects.  Of course, I will continue to pursue solutions to that which ails me, but my main focus should be on what’s right instead of what’s wrong.

It’s true that I still experience many migraines, but I also have excellent vision and hearing, as well as a strong and resonant voice most of the time.  That voice is gradually re-emerging after my week of silence.  It sounds hoarse and raspy now, but I am ever so grateful to be able to talk to my husband in more than a whisper.

A Closing Affirmation – I Love My Voice!

I close with the powerful affirmations on the voice from Louise Hay’s “Love Your Body”:

“I voice my opinions.  I speak up for myself.  I sing the praises of love and joy.  My words are the music of life.  I choose the thoughts that express beauty and gratitude.  I proclaim my oneness with all of life.  I love and appreciate my beautiful voice!”

I am so grateful to be able to speak! I am so grateful to be well after almost two weeks of being sick.  I am grateful for the many health blessings I have, including my wonderful voice. I am grateful for this day, and for every day of my life, and I wish you all a wonderful week!