The Imperfect Self During And After Loss

February 7, 2020

Who you become while you suffer a loss, is imperfect.  The personality that comes through when you are grieving will make plenty of mistakes.  It will have an ego.  A brutality in your words. A mean streak in your exchanges.  A hatred of your circumstances.  A self dance that hurts in every move.  It is a cruel timeline.  During the time the loss is taking place, the years of caregiving, the immediate weeks and months of the initial shock of what has happened, you will live in an imperfect way.  Grief brings along feelings of hatred, anger and ego but even these words fail to describe the anguish of our choices throughout.  The choices we have to make in the midst of pain.  Who we get to be during loss and the immediate after, is someone we have never been before.  Someone who’s pain turns our identity into an angry beast.  While loss is happening it is like an avalanche without end and we are running away from it while screaming for mercy.  And during that run we make mistakes, we say wrong things.  We become someone we don’t like.  When I look back in my years of caregiving, I see a woman who felt alone in the dawn of her husband’s silence and horror of his own terminal diagnosis.  She made mistakes trying to save herself from the pain. She was not patient even in the midst of the many years of patience.  She was not selfless even in the years of giving to him.  She created an inner narrator to protect herself from the hurt and that inner narrator was mean sometimes.  Making everyone an enemy.  To keep her from hurting more.  The complexity of our persona during loss has never really been understood enough.  By anyone.  And we are left in the darkness of ourselves, surviving the loss while its falling on us like an unending avalanche.  Surviving it, rarely happens with kindness.  We survive it by making wrong moves, mistakes and saying words that would have been hard to imagine coming from us.  But you can’t care for the world while you are saving yourself from catastrophic loss.  You will be imperfect, selfish, insane even and that is the only way to make it during the moments of impact. (Click to tweet!) In time, we have to find our way to self forgiveness. We have to understand the imperfect self that got us down the mountain. Believe that without it, we would not have made it.  The loss would have taken us all with it.  So, if you feel guilt, shame and regret for some of the choices you made during the chaos, don’t.  These selfish acts saved your life.  As far as I am concerned, there was no other way to outrun the avalanche.  This was the only version of you that could make it through.  Now that you know this, you can understand the past better.  You are a good and kind person who found yourself on the inside of insanity and had to survive it.  Don’t you ever forget it.  With a very imperfect life, Christina P.S. This week’s Dear Life Podcast was about friendships after any kind of loss. I hope you listen in: http://www.dearlifepodcast.com/episodes/ep34 PPS. A few more days left to register for our weekend together: https://www.1440.org/programs/faculty-led-programs/personal-growth/self-discovery/temple-journey

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Let’s Make Up A Brand New Life

January 31, 2020

Sometimes, witnessing everyone else’s life can confuse the witnessing of our own.   It can distort our view of our wants and needs.  Observing someone else’s ways can influence ours.  This can be rather alarming, especially when we are not even aware that we have grandfathered someone else’s choices.  How did that happen?  Here is how.  We don’t live in isolation.  We are immersed in other people’s lives.  Everyone you meet holds a whole world inside their head.  They walk around with it.  And they try to make their world right.  More right than ours.  More relevant than everyone else’s.  Their way is the way.  Guess what happens to us? Their version of reality becomes more attractive the more we witness it.  It is almost like hypnosis after a while.  We are in a better vantage point to witness someone else’s life instead of our own.  So, we want what we see and not what we have.  It is easier to say I want this too than to ask what is it that I do want?  Copying is faster and easier than creating from scratch.  So we begin new chapters and lives mimicking someone else’s. (Click to tweet!) Pretending it is our own.  Thinking it's our own.  Believing it is.  It is as if everyone is walking around with a flat screen tv broadcasting their show hoping for an audience.  And we become that audience.  We become the passive broadcaster of someone else’s channel.  And the years go by and we wonder what is wrong with our life.  The thing is, this is not the life that we created, it is the life we were shown that we could have. And so we went ahead and had it.  The closer we got with others, the easier it was for our life to be replaced.  Replaced with someone else’s version.  But it doesn’t have to stay this way.  You see, when we go through loss we have an opportunity to broadcast our own show, and live the life we want.  When loss happens all of the close by TVs on top of people’s heads turn off for a few seconds.  The loss is so devastating that we stop broadcasting anyone else’s world.  The pain takes our eyes off the others.  There is a short window of opportunity while our eyes are off everyone else’s screens to witness our own broadcast even though it is so painful.  When my life changed in 2006 and I tried to go back to broadcasting everyone else’s version of my life it felt as if I was betraying myself.  And I kept interrupting their streaming.  I kept pushing them away.  Until I could see what I could create on my own.  From scratch. From my own head.  My own identity. This letter is for you if you feel like it is time to make it all up yourself.  Because to be honest with you, that is all everyone else is doing.  They are making it up and we go and follow their made up worlds around.  I have stopped doing this for quite a few years now.  I am not going to lie to you, creating an original life is not easy.  But living inside someone else’s version of reality is even worse.  With buckets of original content, Christina P.S. This week’s podcast was with Amy Ahlers, and we talked about our inner critic, our inner mean voice, especially after loss.  PPS. We have Temple Weekend registrations from all over the US, I hope you too come be with me in March. And yes it will be original. Yes it will be unlike anything you have ever experienced. Because this is the only way to live life after a loss.

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Walking Around With Miles Of Canyon

January 24, 2020

I don’t think others know.  They can’t see the depth.  The vastness.  It is the shock we feel when we visit the Grand Canyon for the first time.  You can’t imagine it unless you see it.  Grief is the same way.  Words. Photos.  Can’t even begin to describe how big it is.  You and I carry the Grand Canyon inside of us.  It is born when someone we love dies.  The physical world can’t quite grasp the infinite depths of grief. I know. I know that I am walking around with miles of Canyon.  When I look at someone I see them with a thousand points of view.  From all the corners of the Canyon.  When I visit a new place, my millions of miles fill up every space.  I walk inside a room and the space moves inside the Canyon.  Who I became after the loss of my husband is not just another person, I became something completely different.  My body can’t carry me anymore.  I spilled out inside the universe.  Grief is not a human experience.  It can’t be described with language.  Or with sadness.  But expansion beyond the physical world is what it truly is.  Listen. Your eyes are no longer just two.  Your heart is no longer just one.  You don’t live inside your body.  Don’t be fooled into believing that you can contain yourself after a loss. (Click to tweet!) Depression sets in because we try to stay within the physical parameters of our life before it.  We try to live as if the Grand Canyon didn’t just move in.  This has to change.  You have to know what really happened to you.  You spilled out of yourself in a million pieces.  You tried to get all the pieces back inside your body.  And every time you tried you hit rock bottom.  Do you know why?  Because you are not supposed to put all these pieces back together.  They belong to the Grand Canyon and now you are it.  You are it.  You have to learn to live your life from its vastness.  Allowing the Canyon self to do what it needs to do, will save your life.  It will move depression out.  It will help you understand everything.  It will keep you sane inside the insanity of your physical self.  It will teach you to see with all of your eyes.  A new world. Beyond what schools, books, teachers, people can teach you.  And when your last name becomes Canyon you will find a way to give your name to them too.  With eyes everywhere, Christina Canyon P.S. Listen to my podcast conversation with Bryan C. Taylor, his Grand Canyon is beyond words.  PPS. Two months left before our weekend together, register here: https://www.1440.org/programs/faculty-led-programs/personal-growth/self-discovery/temple-journey

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Grief’s Tomorrowland

January 17, 2020

It is the future that we are afraid of the most, when someone we love dies.  We are afraid of tomorrow.  Tomorrow becomes the most scary monster of all.  You see, grief owns a big mansion inside your tomorrow.  She has three pool houses.  A few gardeners, boats and fancy cars. And is sending you invitations to her big house every day.  She has this smirk on her face while she is inviting you.  Knowing that you have no choice but to visit her on her tomorrowland.  And you tremble and crumble.  You weaken and perish.  The big mansion feels like the house of horrors.  You try everything you can to not visit, but it is impossible.  Tomorrow comes and there you are standing in front of the big door.  You don’t even have to ring the bell.  Grief opens the door and rolls out a big red carpet for you.  “Welcome to your tomorrow.” she says.  Showing her ultra white front teeth.  “Come on now, don’t just stand there.  Come on in and let me show you around.” she continues and puts her arm around you seemingly gently pushing you in.  The door closes and you are being ushered to the kitchen.  “Here, why don’t you sit here all day long?” Grief says and points at an old chair next to the table facing the window.  “Don’t worry about the dishes and the empty fridge, you won’t need much here.” she says and is on her way to the other side of the table, pulling up a chair for herself.  “Tomorrow will be here before you know it, and maybe we can spend it in the bedroom.” she says and smiles with a frozen smile.  As soon as she says the word tomorrow, you feel nauseous.  You wish you could lie down.  “Yes, don’t worry.” Grief says as if she could read your mind.  “The bedroom windows have blinds so you won’t have to see the light at all. We can head up there now if you want.”  At that moment you remember all the many yesterdays you had in this kitchen and in that bedroom buried under the sheets.  And this is what you do next that surprises her. And you.  You leave the kitchen and walk outside. She gets up and runs behind you. Yelling.  “But this is not what normally happens when you get here in the morning. We stay in the kitchen then go to the bedroom.” she says. She is losing her words a little.  “Yes I know.” You respond surprised with yourself a little.  “I just felt like I needed some fresh air today. I haven’t tended to the garden since he died. I miss it.” you say and walk towards the part of the garden that has roses.  You used to take care of them.  You would put the big rocking chair right next to them and read your book.  You missed it.  Yes, you are crying.  Yes, grief is yelling at you.  Yes, the bedroom is calling your name from upstairs.  But tomorrow just became today and you chose to change it, from a scary monster to a rose garden. (Click to tweet!) And for the first time when grief mentions tomorrow to you again, there is a moment where you don’t feel as scared anymore.  You may even drive the big car that’s been waiting to take you for a ride all this time.  And of course you know grief will try to drive you, but let’s worry about that then.  For now, the rose garden is waiting for you for some love and care.  And as you can tell grief is besides herself trying to find a way to sit next to those roses, but the sun is blinding so she turns around and walks back in.  Watching you from that window.  Counting the minutes for your return.  Thinking that tomorrow will be scary enough to keep you inside the house. Once again.  But for now, well for now you don’t have to worry about that.  You won your today.  The sun chased grief away.  And the rose bush garden is blooming again.  And did I mention the car outside of tomorrowland is a bright red?  Grief doesn’t like colors, so you do have a shot at driving.  With many reclaimed tomorrows. And cars with all the colors of the rainbow,  Christina P.S. I hope you are listening to the Dear Life Podcast.  PPS. And you have registered for the Temple World Weekend event.

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