Honoring Those Who Have Died…When Will The Killing End?

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

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

In addition, I shutter to think of the millions of men, women, and children killed so far in wars worldwide (over 75 million in WWII alone). What can we do to help stop the killing, maiming, and emotional trauma of war? 

Affirmation: I will 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? What was their contribution to our freedom? What’s one thing you can do to promote peace in the world? 

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

Embracing Peace

When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. Jimi Hendricks, American Guitarist

Every year on May 16th, the International Day of Living Together in Peace urges people to live in a united and peaceful way by listening to, respecting, and appreciating others.

For those of us who want to bring reconciliation and peace to ourselves and the world, the following tips may be helpful:

  • Practice tolerance for others by appreciating their diversity and the choices they make.
  • Walk away when you are angry or are trying to win over a conversation.
  • Don’t compare yourself to other people.
  • Accept other people the way they are instead of trying to change them.

Affirmation: I will love peace more than power 

Coaching question: Which tip will you embrace today? (I’ll work hard to walk away when I’m angry or are trying to win over a conversation)

Is It Almost Mother’s Day…Again??

Yep, Mother’s Day is just around the corner…again. Funny how it sneaks up on us motherless daughters (or daughters who have mothers who choose not to be present). The day that, for me, is often filled with sadness, gratitude, joy, and regret all rolled up in a ball has snuck up on me for almost 70 years…well, 69 to be exact. 

My mother died when I was eight (you do the math). On Mother’s Day when I was young, my dad and I planted the windows boxes my mother loved. An older lady at my church invited me to the Mother/Daughter Banquet (they were a big thing in the 50’s). I can’t remember feeling particularly sad on Mother’s Day (or the week preceding) but I always felt “different” and being different wasn’t necessarily a good thing when you were a kid. 

Much later, as a mother of three kids, I enjoyed the usual burnt pancakes, handmade cards, and popsicle stick gifts kids give mothers on their special day. It was the only day of the year I didn’t have to cook which made it really special. I didn’t think too much about being motherless during those years. Too busy wrapped up in being a mother myself I guess. 

It was only later, after the kids were grown and I began to consider the ramifications of being a motherless daughter of a motherless daughter (my mother died at 34; her mother also died in her 30’s), that I became more introspective on Mother’s Day. 

I can’t say that I miss HER because I barely remember my mother. But I miss the IDEA of having grown up with a mom. Living far away from my grown children, I also miss being celebrated as a mom and celebrating my daughters, step-daughters, and daughter in law. 

Reminding myself that Mother’s Day is just once a year helps as does not dwelling on the retail extravaganza that proceeds it. I usually buy pink carnations in memory of my mom (they covered her casket) and I make an effort to do something I enjoy. I’ve never felt like a victim of my past circumstances. In fact, I think about how I am the person I am today (who I like most of the time) because of my life experiences. 

As a motherless daughter, I learned:

  • to be independent 
  • how to be more resilient and strong in the face of adversity
  • to have empathy for those who have experienced loss. 

What about you? What have the losses in your life taught you? How are you different either because of or in spite of your experiences? How will you remember your mother this Mother’s Day? How will you take care of yourself? 

Happy Mother’s Day (if you’re a mother), Happy Sunday if you’re not. 

Winnie and Mershon Horn — Mother and daughter.

Let’s Become More Aware Of Mental Health Issues

A diagnosis has been enough without being burdened by secrecy and shame. Jane Pauley, television journalist who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Although we have made progress in our understanding, treatment, and acceptance of mental illness, we still have a long way to go. When any other organ is diseased or distressed, there is sympathy, understanding, and (usually) a readily available treatment.

When the brain is diseased or distressed we frequently say, “Just get over it.” Or “You seem fine to me.” Sometimes, we think less of a person because they think or act in a way that is unclear to us. In this month of May (and every other month for that matter), let’s learn what we can about mental illness, respect those who are struggling, and champion the professionals and organizations who serve the misunderstood, unrecognized, and under-treated. 

Affirmation: I acknowledge and champion those with mental disabilities and disease.

Coaching questions: How can you help a friend with mental illness come out from under the mantel of secrecy and shame? If you’re deeply depressed, suspect you’re bipolar, or have other possible mental health challenges, what’s keeping you from seeking professional help?

What Are Those Gut Feelings Telling You?

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. Albert Einstein

We’re often told to “trust our intuition” but what exactly is intuition or “that gut feeling”? Are gut feelings really a thing? 

Yep, those gut feelings are real! Scientists call this little brain in your gut the enteric nervous system (ENS). And it’s not so little. The ENS is two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum. Trust it!

Affirmation: I will pay attention to my intuitive mind as well as my rational mind.

Coaching questions: Do you listen to your intuition and trust what it’s telling you? Can you think of a particular time when you did this? What was the outcome? 

Photo by Edz Norton on Unsplash

Top Ten Ways to Embrace the Joy-Factor

Most of us know that the joy-factor is not increased by accumulating money or possessions beyond our needs. So where do we find joy?  What experiences, thoughts, and relationships help us live more joyfully?

Here are my top ten:

1. Set goals and complete them. There is something satisfying, if not joy-producing, in crossing a task off a list or completing a goal. We are programmed towards accomplishment and we’re frequently frustrated with procrastination, indecision, and lost dreams. Create a tool to measure your progress in order to appreciate the satisfaction and joy of completion.

2. Add music to your life. It’s difficult to hold on to a frown when enveloped by a rollicking Irish jig or a symphony orchestra. Listening to music elicits joy. Participation by singing, dancing, or playing an instrument heightens the experience. 

3. Make something. The click, click of knitting needles, the hum of a sewing machine, the pounding of a nail, the aroma of fresh bread all help us connect to joy. Not only the act of creating a product but being proud of the end result add to our positive feelings.

4. Grow something. Like creating a product; growing a tree, a garden, or an African violet, can bring ongoing satisfaction. Nurturing a growing thing, spending time in nature, admiring the beauty of a plant, all contribute.

5. Give freely. When you give your time, your talents, and/or your money, you’ll give yourself a shot of joy. There is something powerful about giving freely.  

6. Get physical. Move your body. Talk a walk, go for a run, have great sex, row a boat, paint your bathroom. There is strong scientific evidence that significant physical movement activates endorphins that make us feel more joyful. 

7. Add color. Feeling low? Take off that black dress and put on something colorful. In addition to your clothing, add color to your surroundings with fresh flowers, beautiful art, or a vibrant throw pillow. 

8. Connect with friends. Friendship is one of our greatest gifts. Spending time with friends nearly always makes us more joyful. Call an old friend you haven’t spoken to in a long time, set a Zoom date with someone who makes you laugh, drop cookies off to a friend who is lonely.

9. Learn how to be your own best friend. People who learn to be their own best friend and embrace time alone, are in possession of a great gift. Learn how to embrace aloneness before you find yourself truly alone.

10. Stretch your mind. Learning something new can be challenging. However, when we embrace that challenge, we usually come away feeling renewed and fulfilled. 

There is practically no limit to the possibilities for joy when we look for them. When you are in a state of joy, say thank you as you acknowledge your joyful feelings. This will attract more joy to your life.

Are You Embracing Aging?

Aging is not ‘lost youth’ but a new stage of opportunity and strength. Betty Friedan, author

Blogger’s note: This is a repeat of an earlier blog but, since I personally needed the pep talk, I thought you might also. 

If you were born before 1955, here’s some good news. Chances are, you’ve moved beyond the desire for social competition to embracing the importance of social connection. You’re investing in the well-being of others and activities you enjoy. 

Of course, life events like death of a loved one or poor health can interrupt this arc. But, according to social research, moving away from the treadmill of upper mobility actually makes many of us happier. 

According to Jonathan Rauych, author of The Happiness Curve, “As we age our brains become more weighted toward positivity. These changes can be seen in brain MRI scans. Over time we experience less stress, regret, and emotional volatility.” In other words, with experience and age, we become wiser and have more balance and perspective. Now, isn’t that good news?

Affirmation: I have the capacity to improve with age.

Coaching questions: If you’re in your 60s and beyond, have you experienced greater well-being? What are you doing to move into the “happiness curve?”

Photo by Andre Ouellet on Unsplash

“Make A Little Noise” About Gun Violence

When you see something that is not just, not fair, or not right, you have to do something. You have to say something. Make a little noise. It’s time for us to get into good trouble, necessary trouble. John Lewis, civil rights leader, congressman

In the United States, gun violence recently overtook car accidents as the leading cause of death of children between the age of one and nineteen. 

School shootings, accidental shootings, suicides. The U.S. has more gun related deaths then any other wealthy country in the world. Do we have more mentally ill people, more delinquents, more poverty and despair? No! We have more guns! 

I’m taking John Lewis’ advice and “making a little noise.” We need change in this country. We can’t leave it to our lawmakers. We must step up, step out, and make our voices heard. Those who want MORE guns are speaking loudly. They see more guns as the answer to gun violence. If you don’t agree, use whatever means you have to speak your mind. Our children are depending on us!!

Affirmation: You too can get into good trouble, necessary trouble.

Coaching questions: What’s keeping you from speaking out and speaking up? What little noise can you make?

Photo by Bexar Arms on Unsplash

Living a Black, Gray, and White Life

Life is full of ups and downs, the only way to make the journey worthwhile is if you enjoy the good and learn from the bad. Natasha Potter, author

Everyday, I wear the bracelet pictured below. It reminds me that life is a mixture of dark days (black bead); regular, everyday days (gray); and extraordinary, awe-filled days (white). 

Elizabeth Horn, my great grandmother, and the main character in the book, The Bootmaker’s Wife, is gifted a similar bracelet by her friend, Angie known as The Bee Lady. The bracelet will reappear in the upcoming prequel, The Bee Lady

Why so much emphasis on this bracelet? It reminds me that life is ever-changing. If today feels dark, know that you’ll probably not be stuck there forever and look for the lesson. Conversely, if you’re lucky enough to experience a “white day,” savor the experience, take time to luxuriate in the wonder of whatever made that day special, and be grateful.

Affirmation: I accept the fact that life is ever-changing.

Coaching exercise:  Think of a day that was black, a day that was gray, a day that was white. Truly take in the experience of life in that moment. What did you learn? How did you show appreciation? 

Are You Prone To Toxic Positivity?

Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. Mother Teresa

I’m known to be a positive person. In many ways, it’s how I define myself. I even wrote a book about the power of affirmation and another one about how to move forward after loss. People who are constantly “ain’t it awfuling” annoy me, especially when they want me to jump on their bandwagon.

Lately, however, I’m recognizing that there’s a space between constant positivity and the “Ain’t It Awfuls.” It’s called toxic positivity. 

The Psychology Group, a mental health organization in Fort Lauderdale, FL, defines toxic positivity as “the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial, minimization, and the invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.”

Recently when I posted on Facebook about being ill, I had a response that I took as recognition for “being real.” Yep, the Queen of Positivity has bad days, gets angry, gets sick, has anxiety, and occasionally feels sad, lonely, and unhappy. 

Trusting that I’ll never become an “Ain’t It Awfuler,” I will strive to be more authentic about how I feel. If it’s true, the next time someone asks how I am, I might just have the courage and feel the freedom to say, “Not so great. Thanks for asking.” 

Affirmation: I will be authentic in my emotional experience.

Coaching questions: What are the signs that you experience toxic positivity? How will you be more authentic?