The Power of WHY

Your belief in your WHY needs to be powerful enough to withstand the hard times when things don’t go your way. Jamie Kern Lima, author of Believe it: How to go From Underestimated to Unstoppable

When I was writing, and rewriting, and editing, and editing some more my first book, Mom’s Gone, Now What?, I came close to giving up many times. It was hard, there was so much about writing a book that I didn’t know, and I frequently couldn’t figure out where to go next with my manuscript. So many stumbling blocks!

What kept me going?—not sheer force of will, not encouragement from others, not pride. Although all these elements helped, it was the WHY that eventually put my book on the shelf of a bookstore. 

In this case, my why was the fifty plus motherless daughters I had interviewed. Through laughter and tears, they had trusted me with their stories. I had assured them that their sharing would make a difference to other daughters. I couldn’t let them down. The WHY got me through. It can also get you through the rigors of parenting, marriage, career failures, and pushing forward after tragedy. 

Affirmation: I will seek my WHY.

Coaching questions: In what area of your life to you need to ask, WHY? What difference will it make when you come up with the answer?

Live Life and Feel the Joy!

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for a newer and richer experience. Eleanor Roosevelt

Your brain is built to be more sensitive to unpleasant news than it is to pleasant. You’ll probably remember the rebuke longer than you’ll remember the praise. Sometimes, the sadness of death will impact a person more than the feelings of joy and warmth they received from their loved one. 

This bias for negativity generally causes us to worry more than necessary, fear the worst, and focus on bad narratives for too long. When we allow this to happen, we rob ourselves of experiencing the joys around us.

Eckhart Tolle, spiritual teacher and author, writes, “All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry — all forms of fear — are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.” 

Affirmation: I feel the joy.

Coaching questions/requests: Are you experiencing an abundance of anxiety, stress, or worry? What about sadness, bitterness, regret? This week, take time to be aware of your negativity. As you do so, refocus your thoughts by meditating, having an attitude of gratitude, establishing a “worry time” or writing down your negative thoughts to get them out of your head. Some negativity will hang around for a while and that’s ok. What counts is your continued effort to redirect and reprogram.

Feeling the joy of my daughter and some granddaughters having fun at my birthday party.

Is Quitting the Answer?

Quitting is hard, it’s scary, and it’s not always the answer. But sometimes it can be a constructive act that leads to greater personal growth and opportunity. Quinton Skinner, writer, (taken from an article in Experience Life Magazine)

Is there something in your life you need to quit—a relationship, a job, a bad habit, a living arrangement that is no longer serving you? As Skinner writes, quitting is hard, it’s scary, and it’s not always the answer. But, sometimes it is!

Annie Duke, author of Quit: The power of Knowing When to Walk Away, addresses what makes quitting so hard. She writes, “We’ve sunk costs and resources into the situation we don’t want to lose.” She goes on to explain how we often feel an aversion to the possible regret of switching more keenly that the discomfort of the current circumstance. Usually, we wait too long to make the change.

Some questions to ask yourself as you assess whether or not to quit: Do my current values still align with my past decision? What’s my motivation for quitting? Consider what you’ll gain, not just what you’ll lose.

Affirmation: The Latin origin of quit is quietus which means “to set free.” I will set myself free. 

Photo by Miguel Ángel Hernández on Unsplash

What Mementos Are Precious To You?

If you’re like me, you—consciously or not—imbue your decorating, your cooking, and even your gardening with objects, recipes, and plants you associate with friends and family. Stephen Orr, Editor in Chief of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine

When I was polishing up the manuscript for my soon-to-be-published historical fiction, The Bootmaker’s Wife, I considered the plight of the pioneer housewife as she decided on the few things she would pack in her trunk and wedge into her covered wagon. 

Over the years, what have you taken from home to home? In my gardening days, I always planted a Peace Rose because my first bush was given to me by my grandmother on my birthday (the variety was introduced the year of my birth). The walnut, cane-backed rocker that I was rocked in as a baby sits in my bedroom along with my dad’s walnut chest made from wood taken from the first Nebraska homestead. The ring that was my mother’s and grandmother’s is always on my hand. The angel that sat atop my first birthday cake is missing a hand but is still on display. My wooden rolling pin was my mother’s.

Mementos from the past grow more precious as I age. They are a conduit for intense feelings of love and connection. 

Affirmation: I cherish the mementos of my life.

Coaching questions: Are you a person who goes overboard when it comes to hanging on to mementos? What would you leave behind and what would you take if you were about to embark on a journey in a covered wagon? What do you cherish from your past? Why?

Photo by Morgane Le Breton on Unsplash

Never Take Away HOPE

Blogger’s note: I posted this blog three years ago but, since I still have such strong feelings about the topic, I’m reposing. Blessings!

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trail and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. Helen Keller

It breaks my heart to read the posts of women in motherless daughters’ groups telling a woman who is in despair over having just lost her mother that “it doesn’t get any better.” I shout out at my computer screen, “For Heaven’s sake, give the poor grieving woman some hope!” Most of us, if we’re over thirty, have suffered at least one significant loss. If all of us never recovered from loss, we would all be walking around like the Zombies we were the first week.

Even Helen Keller, with no sight, hearing or voice, offered a message of hope for those who are suffering and in distress. I believe it’s important to acknowledge a person’s grief, be with her in the reality of the moment, offer no platitudes like “she’s better off now” or “you’ll be fine.” Saying nothing is always good. Your presence is what matters. Reminisce with her about her loved one. But please, please, don’t take away hope for her future. Hope may be the only thread attaching her to this Earth—sometimes, literally.

Affirmation: I will be a healer and do no harm.  

Coaching questions: What helped you most in times of despair? What words or presence brought you the most comfort? How do you show up for your friends and family in times of distress?

Photo by Ronak Valobobhai on Unsplash

Poetry Speaks to the Heart

When flowers bloom, pay attention. No one is promised tomorrow. Martha Bordwell, author 

My friend and fellow writer, Martha Bordwell, gave me permission to share her beautiful and meaningful poem with you. Martha’s essays and poems have been published in local and national journals. She’s also the author of a memoir entitled, Missing Mothers, which interweaves her experience of losing her mother who died when she was a child with her experience of raising adopted children.

Memorial Day by Martha Bordwell – originally published in Amsterdam Quarterly

Today I found a photo
taken when I was five years old.
I stand alone, in front of a blooming bush,
spears of pink shooting skyward behind me.
I clasp a sprig with both hands
and wear a yellow dress
with a matching bow in my red hair.
The dress is too short;
knobby knees stick out.
I am missing a tooth.
On the back of the photo
my mother wrote, Martha, May, 1954.

Mother must have loved spring
with its abundance of blooms.
Did she welcome each entry in its parade:
first daffodils, then tulips, trillium, bleeding hearts?
Apple blossoms, flowering plums, lilacs?
Did she peer impatiently at the peony buds,
watching the ants scurry up and around
like stagehands getting ready for opening night?
And glow when they opened their annual show,
petals spreading atop slender stems,
a chorus line of gossamer gowns.
Did she wish, like I do, that the show would last
a little longer?

Mother didn’t live to see another spring,
gone more quickly than a blooming bush.
I have no memories of our time together.
Only photos which whisper,
When flowers bloom, pay attention.
No one is promised tomorrow.

Affirmation: I will hold tight to those who have loved me.

Coaching questions: How might you write about your mother loss experience or mother memories? 

Photo by Anna Niezabitowska on Unsplash

Living the Mashed Potato and Gravy Years

It’s really pleasant to be with, familiar, faithful, complaining a little, continually going about its business, loving to lie down. Lillian Morrison, poet, author of When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple

Getting back to exercising after a few weeks away reminds me what an uphill battle it is to stay “in shape” as we age. The quote above from Morrison’s poem, Body, reminds me of how fortunate I am to have this old, familiar body that complains only a little and generally goes about its business.

As a motherless daughter of a motherless daughter—both dying in their 30s—I call my years past thirty-five “gravy years.” Now, as I approach a healthy, happy seventy-seven, my life is better than gravy, it’s a second helping of mashed potatoes with gravy on top.

Affirmation: My body is “pleasant to be with.”

Coaching questions: What’s motivating you to keep your body healthy? How’s that working out? How do you view the years following the “anniversary” year of being the same age as your mother when she died?

Photo by Parnis Azimi on Unsplash

What Helps You Sit With Uncertainty?

It is an act of courage to acknowledge our own uncertainty and sit with it for a while. Harriet Lerner, psychologist and author

For a person, like me, who finds peace and security in making and executing a well-thought-out plan, sitting with uncertainty is challenging and I don’t like it. 

Harriet Lerner calls this sitting “an act of courage” but, to me, courage means choice (I choose to go into the lion’s den). When we have no choice but to sit with uncertainty, I think we have to call on other traits; like perseverance and resilience. 

As I scarf down corned beef hash with vinegar and Ketchup (a childhood favorite) and meticulously clean my kitchen (something within my control), I’m reminded of tools I’ve used in the past to persevere in the midst of uncertainty. A more recent tool (I’m thinking Covid lock-down year), is journaling (much healthier than corned beef hash). 

Affirmation: I will acknowledge and sit with uncertainty for a while. 

Coaching questions: How do you deal with uncertainty? What are your coping mechanisms? 

Photo by Tamas Pap on Unsplash

Remembering Those Who Have Died

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. Mark Twain, American writer

In the United States, this is Memorial Day weekend, a time to remember those who died while serving in the military. The greatest per capita loss of military life for the U.S. was the Civil War (April 12, 1861 – April 9, 1865) in which brother fought brother killing 623,026 when our population was only thirty-one million. 

Our modern day equivalent are the frequent mass shootings by men toting AR-15, military style rifles made to explode human bodies. In this case, however, killings are not soldier to soldier in combat conditions, but the killing of neighbors and neighbor’s children for, mostly, reasons unknown. 

Today I’m grateful that my relatives who fought in wars from the Revolutionary War to the Gulf War, survived. I honor all those who bravely fought and never came home. At the same time, my heart continues to break for innocent victims of our current domestic violence. 

Affirmation: I seek peace.

 Coaching questions: Thinking of the loss others have experienced is helpful in dealing with our own losses. Who are you thinking of today?

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Plant The Seeds For Your Dream TODAY!

If your grandest aspirations are lying dormant or barely creeping along it’s time to leap ahead. Jill Patton, journalist and health coach

Perhaps your dreams are asleep, cocooned in discontent. Even dreams we can clearly visualize like writing a book, starting a business, remodeling the kitchen, or moving abroad, are often caught in ongoing preparation, stalling, and fear. I challenge you to leap into your dreams!

Tara Mohr, author of Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead, defines leaping as “When you give yourself permission to step into your vision now, but without overhauling your life in doing so.” 

Mohr begins by asking women to articulate what’s calling them. Then she challenges them to start living that dream TODAY—yes, this Tuesday! Plant the seeds that will sprout and bloom into your dream. 

Affirmation: I will plant one seed today! 

Coaching questions: What dreams are lying dormant in your life? What’s one seed you will plant today that will wake that dream up and take it one tiny step further? What’s another step, and another, and another?