Monthly Archives: May 2015

A Life Cut Short: A Reminder to Live Life to the Fullest

“A female tourist that was struck and killed by a ’Ride the Ducks’ boat vehicle in Philadelphia’s Chinatown section has been identified.” Her name was Liz. At age 68, she was the youngest of my mother’s circle of friends. She was zany and full of life. I was privileged to know her and she was my friend too.

The web story of what happened wouldn’t have been seen by me if I hadn’t searched for it. People get hit and killed by cars every day and we don’t hear about it. The most unique thing about this story was that it was one of those land and water vehicles. And, of course, because it involved someone that spanned the generations of being friends with not only my mother, but also me, my brother and my sister.

A witness reported she was distracted by her iPad and was clipped by the Duck boat. Instead of stepping back, she held out her hand, as if to say “stop.” Sadly, the driver never saw her. Another witness said they heard a scream and then a thump. She died of massive head injuries.

It’s distressing to read news like this in general. Even more so when it is someone we know and love. Although we hear tragic stories in the news all the time, it’s quite different when it’s personal.

For me, I am made aware again of the fragility of life. It is a reminder of our assumptions that we will have a tomorrow.

It is another wake up call to let go of worry and more fully enjoy the moment.

It is support for my decision to follow and live a life that brings me joy, instead of doing what might be considered sane, secure or logical.

It is also a stark reminder to pay attention to life and what is around me.

Almost all of us have been guilty of walking around in an unfamiliar city looking at our iPad or smart phone. Check out any city webcam and you’ll see many folks distracted trying to navigate their way around. Most of us have referenced our phone or iPad while walking down the sidewalk or crossing a street, even when in a familiar setting.

I know I’ve also been guilty of using “talk to text” while driving. I tell myself I’m not really texting and driving, but we all know there’s not really that much difference.

We’ve all seen the news reports and heard the stories about horrific and sudden deaths due to texting while driving. And perhaps because those stories weren’t directly connected to someone we know, we often don’t quite take them as seriously as we should.

After Liz’s celebration of life, my mother sent a group email out and wrote: “[The] Message is ‘tell people you love them.’ I love you all.”

One of my mother’s friends responded “Liz lived every day to its fullest … and reminds us to live each day as if it were your last … because some day it will be. Her sad, sudden death shows us that life changes in an instant.”

What is fascinating is we all know this message. There is nothing new about the missive to live each day as if it were our last. “Yes, Yes” we all proclaim, wholeheartedly agreeing how life can serve up some mighty unexpected curve balls.

For a time we remember to tell our friends and family how much we love them. Perhaps we call our mom or dad a few times more often. We let go of the grudge we were holding against our neighbor and make up with an old friend.

Life is precious and we never know when our time to leave this earth is going to come. Our biggest assumption is that we will have a tomorrow. Or that those we love and hold dear will be here when we awake. We eventually forget to live each day to the fullest as we get caught back up in the drama of our lives.

Wake up calls are rarely a pleasant thing. The best ones are like the applications on our cell phones that play soft music gradually increasing in volume. The worst are those that startle us from a deep sleep. For me, hearing of Liz’s death was one of the most jarring calls I’ve received in a long, long time.

It’s unfortunate that sometimes this is what it takes to remind us to fully appreciate those around us and chose to focus on how wonderful life can be. Most of us will have a wake up call like this at least once or twice in our life. We will all probably then become busy again and forget to stop and smell the flowers.

Yet, for these brief times we are reminded – whether it’s by a personal experience or by hearing of someone elses’ – we can embrace our loved ones, give thanks for our life, and treat every interaction with every person as if it might be our last. Because, you never know when it just might be.

Pieces of the Puzzle

Having a blog is interesting because I start to be aware when I haven’t posted in awhile. If you haven’t guessed already, I’ve been in what you might call a slump of creativity. I’ve not quite felt as if I’ve had it all together lately. It’s like I’ve been spinning in space – a bit lost – waiting to get back down to a creative, inspired vision.

I think I’m caught in the grist and mill of the grind and having difficulty seeing what’s being created or the work that’s being done. Almost like I’m caught up in my story. It’s an uncomfortable place to be, however it’s perfect to help me practice what I preach, so to speak.

I’ve allowed myself to feel discouraged and without direction rather than using the tools of reframing and shifting my focus and attention. In this, there is the irony of my own forgetfulness. This thing I have called “slumbering” has actually managed to slip in and hijack my life, (again). Perhaps not completely, since I’m recognizing it, but it’s still been here.

When I think about the areas of interest I have had over the last several months, they often seem disconnected. First, my enthusiasm about helping people get off auto-pilot and sharing the importance of how we give meaning to and interpret the events of our lives. Next, I discovered my passion for sacred caregiving and the desire to create a national movement and training program for direct care workers. As I explored that path, I unveiled a forgotten interest in the field of death and dying. While there are some connections, I’m uncertain as to how they all fit together.

I could choose to look at my inability to find one focus as floundering. I could continue to see the disconnection between each of these and continue to feel lost. Or I can use the power of my perception and ability to find a different interpretation my experience and reframe what is happening. Doing so requires I step outside of myself long enough to let go of how things appear now.

This is what I’ve been doing and working through lately. I’ve been thinking about how all of this is floating around me and the connections just haven’t come together yet. And I’ve been remembering to trust they will. When I shift my attention away from feeling that all of these things are separate, and remember everything is connected, I am filled with instant peace and relaxation. It’s a simple mental shift, yet it does wonders.

However, it’s hard for me to maintain this peace because I want everything to happen on MY timetable. I’m so anxious about getting to the end point, where I’ve got it all figured out and have all the answers. Therefore, I’m forgetting some of my own major beliefs:

– there is no end point;
– I’ll never have it all figured out;
– I already have all the answers;
– it’s the journey not the destination.

Since making the choice to be a writer and speaker, one of my consistent themes has been what I am living and demonstrating right how: how our periods of spiritual conscious awareness (awake) and forgetfulness (slumber) are a part of life. I’ve written several articles addressing the importance of being gentle with ourselves and accepting our patterns of slumbering and awakening. I’ve had a deeper understanding of how we will have times we remember that we’re writing the script and telling the story, and other times when we will get lost in the drama and forget we can take control.

It makes sense to me that my life is going to continue to reflect this theme on multiple levels. Certainly I wouldn’t be writing about it if it wasn’t my personal experience and if I didn’t expect it was also that of many others. The irony is to discover there was a part of me fooled into believing that since I had the awareness of the cycles of awakening and slumber, I’d stay awake.

It’s nice to experience an opportunity to practice self-compassion and reframing. I’m floating in the “in-between” time and learning how to let it be okay. It’s hard letting go of the desire to push the river and figure out the next phase of my life a little faster. It’s equally difficult releasing the thoughts that I am wasting my time or “should” be doing something different.

Yet, these are the choices I have to make in order to improve the quality of my life right now. Because no matter how hard I work, study, or write, there will be times the pieces just don’t seem to be fitting together. Trying to force anything else but what is, will not succeed in making me happy. All I can do – all I must do – is reframe what is happening so that it serves me.

Feeling frustrated, lost, or hopeless does not serve me. I can honor those feelings but recognize they are being created by my thoughts and viewpoint. Beating myself up for not having accomplished more or for not being in a different place does nothing to help get me there. Having the perception that I’m spinning my wheels and getting nowhere is not going to move me forward.

The fine line with reframing is releasing into a trust of the process and a bigger picture while continuing to look for inspiration, guidance, and direction. Trusting that things are unfolding does not mean it’s okay for me to ‘wallow in the mud,’ give up striving, or stop looking for the connections. What it does mean, however, is that I won’t be able to put the pieces together if I’m trying to force them or stay focused on how they don’t fit.

Putting together a giant puzzle seems a good analogy for this delicate balance between loving what is while still moving forward. I can appreciate each piece and can enjoy what has come together, but sometimes it’s necessary for me to step back and take a break. Because I don’t have the box that has the completed picture to help me figure it out.

In our lives we don’t have the box with the bigger picture, and sometimes we will feel as if we’re floating in space with no connection to what is happening. We put together the boarders and then try to figure out what goes in the middle, picking up pieces and putting them down again. Sometimes we have to tear the whole thing down and start over.

I’m gently grounding myself with remembering all the pieces are here. They will come together when the time is right. I continue to write, play, laugh and cry and thus live my life fully. And I remind myself once again, it’s the journey, not the destination … and it’s nice to reawaken.

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