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Women’s March uncovers disturbing memories

Long before there was growing publicity and daily social media posts about the Women’s March in January of this year, I knew I would be flying from San Francisco to Washington, DC to participate.

I couldn’t be silent when our president-elect’s rhetoric was threatening our basic human rights. Daily news reports about his references to women, immigrants, race, religions, and our environment left me feeling frustrated and angry. What I did not fully appreciate until I arrived at the March on January 21st, however, was the impact of Trump’s sexist comments on my psyche. It’s taken me almost 5 months to write this post and now the reality of this administration is more surreal than I could have ever imagined at the beginning of the year.

We arrived at the Huntington Metro Station in Northern Virginia to join the March after being told that if we drove to the beginning of the line there would be available seats. When the train slowed down at each station to pass the throngs of waiting passengers, we only saw smiling, cheering crowds. Everyone looked thrilled to be there. No one was in a hurry.

The first sign we saw was posted on the gate at the train station: This Pussy Grabs Back! These people weren’t messing around! There were pussy hats everywhere.

As our train pulled up to the station near the Capital, I was a little concerned that we’d get on the escalator and not be able to get off. There were so many people lined up outside that there wasn’t much room at the top where we were to exit. Over 5 million people around the world marched in solidarity on that day. I was proud and happy to be there.

There were so many people, in fact, that we couldn’t actually march. There wasn’t enough room on the route to accommodate all of us. So we stood shoulder to shoulder for close to six hours. I felt a little claustrophobic when I looked around and realized there was no way I could escape if I needed to. I would have to move when the crowd moved. All that standing and listening gave me time to breathe and reflect.

What I thought about for the first time in decades was sexual harassment. I didn’t know what it was called back then, but I remembered two occurrences during my corporate career; one happened in San Francisco and another when I moved back to the east coast. They both occurred when I was in my 20s.

The first encounter was fairly innocuous. I remember a very uncomfortable feeling when a superior intimated that he could help me if I was willing to have dinner with him. I managed not to engage with him again. The second encounter, however, shook me to my core for many years afterwards.

The top leader in our organization decided I would be one of his favorites. I didn’t realize it was obvious to the group until later. He sought me out and gave me praise. As a junior member of his staff, I was initially excited by the attention, but when it turned to sexual suggestions in his office, I was stunned. He always wrapped our encounters in humor, but when I tried to back away, his biting comments started to make me question myself. I felt paralyzed to do anything.

I thought about those feelings of helplessness as I stood in the crowd.

The fallout from Trump’s administration has created a growing community of activists and I’m energized to join them. The March on Washington helped me remember that men who talk about women disparagingly and abusively do not change.

Traveling in transition

As the door closed for takeoff on the 7am flight from Washington DC to San Francisco last Wednesday, I felt an almost instantaneous letdown. The stress of moving two households, mine and my mother’s, while helping her adjust to the idea of a new living arrangement after almost 55 years in our family home, has left me depleted.

When I arrived at my California destination last week feeling mentally and physically exhausted, I looked out the window of the home where I’m staying and saw the white roses blooming in the backyard. The mountains were outlined against the bright blue sky and I sensed this was the balm I needed. What a welcome respite during my continuing transition from one coast to the other.

I know how lucky I am to have the wherewithal to travel back and forth. I will leave again next month to help my mom prepare to move into her “710 condo,” as we call her new independent living facility. We’ve created a Pinterest account to look at the rooms and furniture that we both love. It helps us stay focused on creating a new and, what I hope will be, enjoyable life for her. Knowing that I will continue to travel back and forth to see my family and friends sustains me through these changes.

There are so many emotions associated with a move like this: trepidation at watching a parent move to another stage of life; melancholy at saying goodbye to a home and neighborhood that I’ve known since I was in the second grade; and sadness leaving a city and friends that I have loved for over 35 years.

But as I contemplate the future, I am reminded of a quote that always excites me when I remember it: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver

 

Trust the unimaginable to create the life you want

During March 2016, my daughter suffered a heart attack from a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). We learned that it is a very rare condition that can occur in postpartum women with fluctuating hormones. It happened just one day after coming home from the hospital with her newborn son.

We were already grieving from the loss of my husband, her father, who had died from heart failure just 4 months before. Feeling desperate, I briefly worried about how they would take care of their new baby. In my old life, the story I would have concocted about a husband, his daughter, and their hearts would have sent me into a tailspin, but I remembered my improbable story and it saved me.

For much of my adult life, work had been my primary focus. I’d lose track of time finishing some project or getting ready for a presentation. Our daughter heard her father say more than once, “Let’s call your mom at work. She should be home by now.” It wasn’t that I was passionate about my corporate job. In fact, I was unhappy because my performance anxiety kept me tightly wired. I had moved up the corporate ladder, but had this need to succeed that overwhelmed almost everything else.

The crazy life I had been living was based on a major misunderstanding. The wound came from a mistaken belief that I learned very early in life growing up with an alcoholic father in an enabling family. I believed that in order to be loved, I needed to succeed.

I was rewarded for being good. Whether it was achieving good grades in school, developing new friendships or finding new jobs, if it was acceptable to my parents, I received a lot of attention. I was second of five girls, one of whom accused me of being the successful, favorite child. That made my anxiety worse.

These kinds of beliefs are just misinterpretations from growing up. We all experience them. Mine just happened to be deep seated. Because I received recognition from my parents that was performance based, I had difficulty feeling the love that was certainly behind their praise. Instead, I felt the intense pressure to succeed.

I tried all kinds of remedies to get rid of the shame for never being enough and to calm the anxiety that ensued, but there was no resolution until I met an intuitive teacher. He taught me about universal energy and how our thoughts create our reality. He suggested that by changing my thoughts, I could learn to trust the inner wisdom that exists in all of us. Ask it for help, he said.

It wasn’t long before I started experiencing some amazing situations, like the sudden appearance of a significant amount of money, almost to the penny, that I needed in my work budget. Or the debilitating back problems that challenged me for decades. The pain was worse after surgery, but resolved itself during a 20-minute session with my intuitive healer. Even my husband and children were noticing their own inexplicable experiences.

There was still a nagging feeling that these stories could all be coincidences, but because there were so many examples, I just knew I was bringing them to me by the way I was thinking. Then an extraordinary episode happened.

Our daughter was out of town and her then fiancé was unavailable at a remote location when she called me sobbing on the phone, struggling to share what had happened. The intern caring for their dog accidentally left the door ajar. Her beloved rescue dog, Clyde, had escaped earlier that morning.

As dusk descended on the northern California Preserve where they lived, Clyde was at risk of being attacked overnight by the coyotes and other wild animals that live in the park. In a few weeks, my daughter was to be married and the panic in her voice told me the confluence of events was pushing her beyond her limits.

I crawled into bed late that evening still thinking about how this might affect her wedding weekend. I decided to listen to my recorder and capture one of the conversations with my intuitive teacher, hoping I would find something that would help ease her worry and guilt.

My husband was sleeping next to me and I didn’t want to wake him by turning on the light, so I walked to the kitchen to grab my mobile phone and got back into bed. I put on my headset to listen to the recording, and used the phone to make notes from our conversation.

Without my glasses, I typed words into the phone but didn’t send anything to me. I planned to wait until morning to read what I had typed, and then email it to my daughter.

I must have dozed off as I continued listening to the recording. I woke up in the middle of the night to a flashing light on my phone. I thought it was odd that I had received an “out of office” message from one of our corporate executives, but I quickly let go of the thought and drifted back to sleep.

Early the next morning the red light on my phone was blinking again. I noticed an email from the head of our compliance group and briefly read the first two sentences of the note. “Thanks for this, but it’s a little cryptic. Is all okay?”

My eye had caught the next email from someone on my own team. “I need to talk with you. It’s urgent. Please call me,” he implored. He answered his phone with “How is everything? Are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” I responded. “What’s up?”

“Someone forwarded me the message you sent them. You better check your email,” he said.

I could hardly believe what I saw: “We become what we believe; all you have to say is to want to become (feel) energized; you can never tell life how to bring you what you want; you can tell life what you want but not how to bring it to you; main reason we’re here is to learn we create with our thoughts and to work with the energies.”

What the f*** just happened?! Oh my God! The email went out!

For some inexplicable reason, my thoughts intended for my daughter had gone to a random group of executives and staff members throughout the company. Over 40 people had received it!

I found my husband sitting in our living room. I could hardly breathe. How could this have happened? I don’t have any of these names in my phone! There is no distribution list! I did not send this out! What is going on?

An executive in risk management, whose job it was to ensure our corporate systems and processes were never vulnerable, sent an email suggesting I contact a staff member in our technology security group to find out how this happened. “It could be a major problem if something like this was sent outside the company.” I called the staffer in security and he investigated, and then called me back. They had no explanation.

I sent a note to my boss as a heads up and she replied that the top HR officer, who had received the email, had already forwarded it to her. I thought the corporate cyber world was on fire with my story and I felt overwhelmed with embarrassment.

Shortly afterwards, though, two encouraging communications with trusted advisors calmed me. One was with a senior executive who told me she had been riding in the car with her husband when she saw my email and shrieked so loud that he almost ran off the road. She couldn’t stop laughing. She sent an email that said, “There are no coincidences or accidents in the universe!!” I began to relax. There was a kindred spirit out there in the corporate hierarchy.

The other conversation was with my coach who was very familiar with my struggle to show vulnerability. How could this have happened? I needed to know. She responded, isn’t it amazing? Without technical or rational explanation, we laughed together at the significance of this unexplainable occurrence.

Then I remembered my most recent pleas for help. They went something like this: Show me how to be vulnerable, to take myself less seriously, and to laugh more. Help me share my true nature and intuitive gifts. Let me talk freely about how I overcame my struggles. Help me use my spiritual skills to create a new life.

No longer fearful or embarrassed, I was now thankful that this not so random event had occurred. The people who received my email were the last people I would have wanted to share those thoughts with. I was not prepared to speak with any of them about universal energy, but they had unknowingly become the breakthrough group for my coming out.           

The email was the absolute shift that enabled me to begin to accept the unexplainable. I now understood, in an undeniable way, that what I think about is what comes back to me. The spontaneous events that followed Clyde’s escape exposed my vulnerability. And he came home unharmed.

When I received the call in March 2016 and we rushed my daughter to the emergency room, I remembered the email in the middle of the chaos, and began to calm myself. I trusted that she would be okay. Today, she is happy, healthy and thriving as a Conservation Medicine Veterinarian and the mother of an active 11-month old boy.

After that infamous email, I opened my heart to the universe.

I had tried for many years to leave my corporate job, going to great lengths to qualify for a retirement package. I even called my HR representative while she was on vacation, to ask if I could be included on a newly created list. She said no. My role was considered critical to the company.

As my husband’s health deteriorated and the expensive medical bills started to mount, we knew it was important to have a secure income with good health insurance. But now, instead of worrying about not having enough, I remembered the email story and asked the universe for help.

My retirement did not materialize as I thought it would. I was shocked at first. After 20 years of reviews that exceeded company expectations, I was told that executives could not trust me. I still had emails from many of them thanking me for a recent contribution or congratulating me on an accomplishment. I couldn’t imagine that there was a trust issue.

I was given an option to work very quickly to restore their trust in me. Or I could retire. I didn’t think about it at the time, but wondered later if this was caused by the telepathic email that went to many of them the year before.

My retirement package arrived just when my husband was admitted to the hospital. I was able to spend the last year of his life focusing on him. What a gift that was to both of us.

My retirement couldn’t save him, the man I had loved for 36 years, but it did give me the gift he wanted me to have. It allowed me to help care for our new grandson. Within the year, I traveled with my son to Europe on his business trip, flew my family to Maine for a vacation, and drove across the country to live in California. I could also now spend time on a new business idea that would allow me to help others.

I’m convinced that my willingness to believe and trust in something that cannot be seen or heard, and can never be proven, is how I’m drawing these experiences to me.

Experiences are the only way to discover the truth.

Make your intentions clear and then let them go, as if they are already here. Don’t tell the universe how to bring them to you. Trust that the wisdom within you already knows.

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I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories.

Blog: www.glass-full.me

Email: margaret@dimidia.com

Twitter: Margaret Simeone@Meg_Simeone

FaceBook: Margaret Simeone

Instagram:meggiesim

Amazon.com: Avery & Me: An Intuitive Healer, Skeptical Seeker and A Life Transformed

How aliens reminded me about the synchronicity of life

I’ve never thought of myself as a science fiction enthusiast, although I’ve loved movies like Star Wars, The Martian, and Inception, but after a quick decision to walk into a showing of Arrival, the 2016 Oscar nominated film, I now realize that I am a fan of the genre.

Amy Adams stars in this science fiction story about the emergence of a linguist who learns how to communicate with extraterrestrials. After they descend on planet earth, their message of hope is ignored by those convinced that the aliens have arrived to destroy their world. Adams’ character discovers their benevolent mission, but cannot convince her team, much less the rest of the world, that these visitors pose no threat.

With the alien’s help, she shifts her perception of time and experiences the entirety of her life in a single moment. I watched as she emerged from her melancholy to realize that the journey was much more than the end destination.

I enjoyed the movie, but after reading some of the negative, even hateful reviews online, I wondered if this polarizing film would get in the way of my story. Then three things happened within hours of each other that helped me decide:

  1. A friend encouraged me to move forward after I mentioned my concern;
  2. A collage by artist, Tomo Mori, called Regeneration, appeared when I decided to write my story. I thought the painting looked like the oxygenated capsule in the movie Mission to Mars;
  3. A reader responded to a recent article of mine, sending a stanza from the poem Journey Home by Rabindranath Tagore, a 1913 Nobel Prize winner:

The traveler has to knock at every alien door to come to his own, and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.”  

I realized it was time for me to emerge from my safe place and forget about what other people would think.

When something emerges that calls to us as it comes into view, it can be an uplifting process. For instance, the present day American resistance movement emerged onto the political scene and emboldened a complacent population to speak out against injustices. I found my voice in the middle of this political upheaval, feeling confident to share my view, in part, because of the community of like-minded resistors.

A very different kind of emergence happens when we’re exposed after hiding for a long time. It feels heavy moving through this process. Unlike the freedom from which I found my voice in the resistance, it was much more difficult for me to emerge from the dissonance between my exterior life and who I really am on the inside.

For a significant period of my life, I hid the deepest part of me for fear that I might offend or be the subject of ridicule. After decades working in the masculinity of corporate life, I learned how to survive. I could strategize and problem solve; figure things out and get them done. I found ways to help customers succeed by analyzing their business processes. I led a sales team of the year and was well compensated. I also learned how to guard my competitive advantage and rely exclusively on myself. I was excited to move up the corporate ladder, but eventually recognized my anxiety was an indication that the left part of my brain was out of balance with the right.

Sitting in that movie theatre, watching Arrival with my niece, I remembered how I had struggled to align my outer being with my inner knowing. Merging these parts of myself required time to reflect and find new meaning in my experiences. I started to notice the synchronicity that I now believe has always swirled around me. When we finally connect with our true selves and come into our own, the new knowledge feels meaningful, yet light.

There will always be challenges in life, but our commitment to learn and grow and surround ourselves with people who lift us up, will always keep the beauty in life alive. That’s where awareness and synchronicity live in times of adversity. We need to trust that the answers are already within us.

Irrespective of life circumstances and whatever obstacles line your path, you have an ability to draw to you what you desire in people and situations. It’s a matter of quieting your mind and asking for help from whatever power sustains you. Whether it’s religious, spiritual, or your own awareness of an experience, answers often emerge. I say often because putting yourself out there, without a clear intention and trust that the answers exist, will leave you grasping for the help you cannot see.

I learned how to focus on my breath and breathe deeply, waiting to see what emerged. By waiting for the answers to come, I was forced to give up control in the moment. I learned how to be vulnerable, using my voice to ask for help and support. I learned the importance of compassion and showing up in a more visible way to be of service. I let things emerge between my doing and just being, and finally found ways to recognize and appreciate my life’s value.

As I sat outside in the California sunshine this week, embracing my new life in the most beautiful surroundings I could imagine, I thought about all the incessant worrying I experienced trying to figure things out. I catch myself more quickly now when I’m stuck in my thoughts and I move more easily to the intuitive nature of my heart. That’s when the synchronicity begins. Here are a few recent examples:

  1. My family opened their homes to me after I arrived in California, but many months had passed and I had to find a place to live. When I finally committed to the west coast and changed my online profile to the Golden Gate Bridge, a friend from over 30 years ago responded the minute I posted my picture. I am now renting her home.
  2. I was feeling sad thinking of what I had lost after 35 years with my late husband, and asked for help to be reminded that suffering is optional. Then I saw a quote that a friend had posted online: “What appears as a loss is a shift to a more subtle state of consciousness. And if you are open enough and courageous enough to take that shift, what appeared as a loss will come back to you in an infinitely more wonderful subtle form.”
  3. My daughter and I had been tense with each other for quite some time. We both felt like we were tiptoeing around for fear that any comment could spark an angry reaction. We sought outside help from a conscious communicator and I discovered that my worry had translated into judgment. I did not believe that my daughter was okay after her father’s death and her subsequent heart attack. Then on her son’s first birthday, I watched my daughter revel in her son’s silliness amidst all the laughter and lightness. She shared his birthday celebration on social media. Over 200 friends responded. I remembered that I had asked for help to laugh with her again and to know that she was okay.

My logical, left brain resists looking for “coincidences” when I stay in my thoughts, but as I keep reclaiming my intuitive nature, I remember to appreciate the journey. I remind myself that challenges help me learn and grow, and will be repeated when the lessons elude me.

By being aware of the synchronicity in life, we can learn how to appreciate and make our journeys that much more enjoyable.

Feel free to share your thoughts on my blog at glass-full.me, on Facebook at Margaret Simeone, or on Twitter at Margaret Simeone@meg_simeone. I’d love to hear from you.

 

Finding happiness again

Despite this grainy picture that was taken a decade ago at a makeshift bar in Gettysburg, the memory of the laughing and silliness still resonates with me after all these years. I was with two of my teammates at an offsite gathering when we took a break from our studies. I don’t remember what we were laughing about, but I can feel the pure lightheartedness of that evening. Finding this picture reminded me of something I had forgotten: how important it is to have fun.

For the past few years, my life has been tumultuous and sad. My husband and I believed he would overcome his long term health issues, and we worked hard to find solutions for his failing heart. When he died over a year ago, I felt the most intense sadness I’ve ever felt. Yet, in the midst of my sorrow, I could feel happy. It didn’t happen quickly, but it has begun.

When we feel invincible, there is an illusion of foreverness. This is the way it should be when we are young, and perhaps even later in life, living with optimism for the lives we are about to build and the unbridled passion for all that we can create. Though our perception often changes as we live longer, this can be a good thing, too. As the saying goes, we can live each day as if it is our last, knowing life on this earth can be short. At some point, I remembered that my situation was not unique and I changed the story of my widowhood, which led me to experience the happiness I thought would never return.

The thing about life is that when we are able to live without holding on to the negative emotions that seep in and out, we learn more about ourselves. We then have the chance to grow into that knowledge. We can love and be loved by those who remain. We can grab the opportunity to explore what we don’t know. And, we can find peace in the most simple moments.

Over time, it became important to have more happy moments than sad ones because I knew my health depended on it. I also knew my husband, the love of my life, would want it to always be this way. I started feeling grateful again. As I held on to these ideas, the synchronicity of life, those unexplainable events I’ve experienced so often in the past, began to materialize.

I decided to change my FaceBook profile and uploaded an image of the Golden Gate Bridge. This was definitely a statement about my decision to live on the west coast, even though I was still feeling somewhat uncertain. I didn’t have a permanent place to live or a community of friends who would help me call the Bay Area home, but my children and grandchild were around and that was enough for me to make a commitment. I set an intention to find a new home, meet new people, and create a new beginning for myself.

A response to my profile seemed to come almost the second I made the change. A colleague I had known, but had not spoken with for over 30 years, had replied. Through mutual friends we knew of each other’s lives, but only on a superficial level. She wondered if I was really living in her backyard. That weekend we reconnected and this generous soul offered me her home as a temporary respite. She has shared her realtor, banker, dentist, and other contacts who might help me transition into my new life.

She was so incredibly welcoming that I felt comfortable to be sitting in my robe at her kitchen table late one morning, in the middle of a storm. The power was out in some of the neighboring homes, which accounted for the fact that four of her friends were making their way up her walkway in the rain. You can sneak downstairs if you’d like, she offered. Considering I had rolled out of bed and hadn’t even taken the time to see what I looked like, that was a nice suggestion.

I thought about it for a split second, but decided to hang out with these people, despite what I looked like. It was the best decision I could have made. Her friends were just as welcoming as she has been. One of them insisted that we had met before; I also felt the connection. There I was with good food, drinks, entertaining people, and feeling like I was in the middle of a pajama party. It was fun!

It’s not easy for me to admit I can have fun after all my husband went through and how I’ve suffered without him. But somewhere along the way, I could hear his voice in my mind, reminding me how short life really is. I didn’t want him to suffer any longer and he wouldn’t want the same for me. I’ve let go of my expectations and those of others, and have decided it is important to make fun a part of my life.

 

 

 

5 things my son taught me about life

Our children teach us things everyday, whether it’s in a quick comment, a poignant conversation, or watching their behavior over time. If we’re open to these lessons, we can be inspired to change our perception, sometimes even shedding a long-held belief.

I recently wrote about my daughter and her career.  https://glass-full.me/2016/12/14/5-lessons-i-learned-about-finding-your-dream-career/

I now focus on the lessons I have learned from my son, Tom.

Less than 3 years separated our children. She was the eldest and he the younger brother. There are reasons why firstborns are expected to succeed at whatever the family values the most, while the free-spirited youngest is given the latitude to take risks. The first child gets the parent’s undivided attention; the last child gets more leniency and less caution. Temperaments can override the stereotypical birth order, but our family seems to have followed the classic model.

At a very early age, Tom marched to the creative beat of his own drum. When his pre-school daycare provider, a puritanical task master, expressed dismay about Tom’s hearing problem, we discovered he was just ignoring her constant reprimands. He didn’t blindly follow authority figures. In elementary school, when many of the other boys were playing football, Tom and his buddy were engaged in Star Wars games. He didn’t always follow the crowd.

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Before his Back to the Future and Star Wars days

In high school, we noticed his interest in taking multiple perspectives on an issue. He could see the shades of gray in a black and white world. As he got older, Tom made his own decisions, sometimes disagreeing with popular opinions. He didn’t want to be pigeonholed into living in a world that tries to coerce us into all being the same.

He loved the camaraderie with his football teammates in school, and even though as a boy he vowed to live above our garage for the rest of his life, he left his college team and moved to Germany his junior year abroad. He accepted a Fulbright Scholarship after college, taught English in Austria, joined the Austrian national football league, and lived in Europe for 5 years.

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D3 quarterback in college

Tom has always been motivated to meet new and different people, and he developed an eclectic community of friends in Austria. He became fluent in German and traveled around Europe with friends like Danny, who speaks 5 languages. Tom is much more about working to live rather than living to work.

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Danny and Tom in Eastern Europe

When he decided to move back to the United States, we thought he might move home to  Washington DC, but he drove across the country to live in California’s Bay Area, where his sister and brother-in-law live. He wanted to forge a closer bond because he values family.

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With his new nephew (his favorite)

The day he and his good friend, Mike, left to start their new lives in San Francisco, Tom did not have a job or a place to live. Within weeks of arriving, they found a home and Tom was offered a job with an Eastern European wine distributor, right there among the California wineries. It would be more difficult to sell his products, he acknowledged, but by not having to compete with all of the California distributors, his access to large accounts would be easier. He contradicts conventional wisdom.

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Talking with a wine customer in Croatia

Like so many of us, Tom didn’t know his passion when he was young. Perhaps it was difficult for him to follow a sibling who at a young age knew what she wanted. But as Tom stayed clear of the traditional career paths he was exposed to growing up, his outgoing, affable personality has afforded him opportunities to do things he loves, like meeting a delightful traveler on a transatlantic flight or having a meaningful conversation, often over a glass of wine.

It hasn’t always been an easy journey and, at times, he’s worked second and third jobs to make ends meet, but the lessons he’s taught me are the ones that continue to hold him in good stead:

  1. Listen to your heart and not to what others say is important. It takes courage to follow your own path, maybe even losing touch with those who choose a different way. The easy route is to be agreeable and fall in line. But if you want live as though you have only one precious life, then listen to what really speaks to you.
  2. Believe things will work out. When you make a public declaration without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, you expose yourself to skeptics. Things may not turn out the way you anticipate, but if you believe in yourself and your intentions, and work toward your desire, the results will always be better than you imagined.
  3. Commit to a life you love. If you’re not one of those people who have always known which path to follow, it takes time and effort to hone in on what makes you the most happy. Give yourself the time to reflect and discover what lights you up and makes you excited to get out of bed every day.
  4.  When something’s not working, find another way. Do whatever it takes to create the life you want. Don’t let the opinions of others keep you from your goals. We can only grow when we face and overcome our challenges. That’s where success lies.
  5. Trust an infinite wisdom to guide you. Fear keeps us mired in our challenges. Life can then seem less than satisfying. If you possess a feeling of awe and wonder at the mystery of the universe, and keep moving forward with faith and clarity of intention, you’ll discover that what you are looking for has already been in the making.

 

5 lessons my daughter taught me about a dream career

Last week, our daughter posted a video on Facebook that reached over 9,000 views in two days.

 

Claire was the main author of the first study of its kind on marine mammals. She and her colleagues at The Marine Mammal Center found that a slow-release antibiotic gel is effective in healing sea lions whose eyes have been injured by human-made problems like oil spills.

She found a career that brings real meaning to her life.

Her love of animals started very early. It didn’t matter if it was a prairie dog, rabbit, sea otter, dachshund, or ibis; she was smitten. She’d cross the street to talk to a dog, bring strays home, and take care of the classroom rodent on the weekends. She convinced us to get a family dog, two guinea pigs, and even a dozen mice, for a short period of time. When the beloved palpation dog in vet school was about to be euthanized, she adopted him.

She is now a wildlife medicine veterinarian, a career that was influenced and nurtured by her father. Long before the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, they watched shows like Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and Sir David Attenborough’s BBC Life Series on animal life around the world. Her father told stories about his time as a Peace Corps volunteer and the animals he encountered in Africa.

This exposure developed a determination, at a very early age, to become a veterinarian. Later, after taking a behind-the-scenes tour with a friend at San Diego’s Wildlife Park, she expressed her desire to focus on wildlife conservation and made that dream a reality before she was 25.

During her earlier years, she often showed her passion. A visit to Orlando had Claire straddling up to a theme character. Notice who she wanted in her picture.

claire-in-red-glasses_sea-world

She has since had many adventures working with sea turtles in Turks and Caicos, bonobos in Africa, giraffes at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, and dolphins at SeaWorld. Once, when she was applying for a job, she considered living inside the zoo as a veterinarian. Another time, she had her arm, up to her elbow, in the throat of an anesthetized polar bear.

Today, she takes care of marine mammals working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC).Dr Claire dolphinI’m not an expert on what it takes to turn your love into a dream job. I’ve been woefully inadequate in letting my heart’s passion drive my own career. But I have observed the work that has gone into making her career a reality and I know how appreciative she has been to find a job that fills her up. When you align your heart’s desire with meaningful work, it becomes one of the most important accomplishments in your life.

Since we spend so much time at work, taking us away from so many other things we love, it’s important to enjoy the job or believe it serves a broader purpose in society.  If not, then eventually you’ll realize that work isn’t worth the investment of your time. You’ll end up not being as good as you can be doing a job you don’t love. People notice your lack of passion and you will feel it, too.

Here’s what I’ve learned from watching my daughter find her dream career:

  1. Be curious about whatever gets you excited. Don’t be passive, but instead, explore your interests. If there are opportunities to volunteer in your desired field, don’t hesitate. Claire cleaned out the stalls, spent time neutering dogs, and fell on the floor, knocking over the sterilized instruments, as she passed out observing her first operation while in high school.
  2. Grow the confidence to step into whatever it is that lights you up. If you’re really committed to following what you love, you’ll find a way to be calm and focused on your end goal. Embarrassments happen all the time, but don’t let that stop you. Be ignorant. Ask lots of questions. Know that anyone who has found their dream job has experienced many setbacks.
  3. Take jobs you may not want knowing they’ll help you along your path. Claire spent an entire year working at an emergency hospital, constantly on rotation, working nights and then days, exhausted most of the time. I think she would say all the hardship was worth the experience she gained.
  4. Let fear recede in order to turn your love into your life’s work. Moving toward a dream job has it’s up and downs as any pursuit does, but don’t let worry consume your efforts. Love the idea of it enough so that you don’t have time to worry about whether or not it’s going to work out. If fear creeps back in, envision yourself doing what you love.
  5. Don’t let money concerns hold you back. Regardless of how you grew up or what obstacles stand in your way, create a state of mind that keeps you focused on your goal. If you are doing what you love and believe the money will follow, it will. There’s not enough money in the world, anyway, to make you as happy as doing what you truly love.

If you create a state of mind that keeps you focused on your goal and ask for help, it will come. Claire stayed with family friends for six months, free of charge. If you think that opportunity won’t come your way, change the story in your mind that keeps you from moving forward. Anything can happen. Develop a strategy to get you where you want to go. Build your support system. It is worth everything you have to follow your dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A near life experience in Calistoga

Traveling to new places gives me an opportunity to learn. It might be talking with someone I’ve just met or learning when I travel with intention to explore a new idea.

I’m a big believer in the connection between the mind, emotions and body. I’ve walked on hot coals in Chicago, practiced silence for a weekend in McLean, VA, and used the intuitive power of horses in Point Arena, CA. Recently, I found my breath in a yoga room during a wellness program in Calistoga, California.

I started meditating and focusing on my breath a number of years ago in Hugh Byrne’s mindfulness meditation classes in Washington, DC. Hugh is a skilled and inspiring teacher and author of The Here-And-Now Habit, which applies mindfulness to habit change. His weekly night classes helped me cope with a busy mind and I highly recommend him if you’re in DC.

This year I discovered Max Strom and my breathing practice reached a new level. Over 200 days a year Max travels the world teaching breathing techniques. I happened to be in California at the same time he was teaching a wellness program in Calistoga. Not knowing what to expect, I arrived at the long weekend retreat with some trepidation. Most of the participants were yoga instructors who had learned under Strom. I shouldn’t have worried because Max took time to instruct us individually on ways to open our hearts through breathing. You can learn more about his breathing techniques at http://maxstrom.com.

Max talked about a near life experience during the class. While near death experiences are rare, he said, near life experiences are much more common. It’s the missed opportunities that haunt people when they get older. When we get to the end of our lives, it seems we forgive ourselves. We know we did the best with what we had, but it’s the missed chances that we remember. I shouldn’t have worked so hard. I should have traveled more. I could have gotten by with less money and had a lot more time to spend with people I love.

It’s a good reminder. No more woulda, shoulda, coulda. I’m refocused again on a full life experience.

 

 

On being mortal

When our future son-in-law proposed marriage to our daughter, my husband and I were there. We weren’t literally with them the moment he asked her to marry him, but we were on the Sausalito ferry knowing that he would ask her to take a walk with him. When they came back we were lucky enough to experience her tears of joy. It was a very special day.

Later that week Tony and I drove to Carmel-by-the Sea for a short getaway. This picture was taken on our drive down the coast. Although he had survived heart surgery to repair his mitral valve two years before, I never thought we would lose him so soon. We remembered him this month on the first anniversary of his death.

I was blessed to welcome the birth of our grandchild four months after Tony passed. Blessed in the sense that this baby boy brought more joy than I could ever have imagined. He was and is a magical distraction. Yes, I still wish he could have known this grandfather and I still have moments of heartache, but time is healing.

I don’t know how long it was after Tony’s death that I read Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. It couldn’t have been more than a month. This wasn’t a book I was searching for or even knew anything about. It was sitting on the steps in my mother’s home waiting to be returned to her friend. My mother hadn’t thought to mention it to me and I didn’t recognize that reading it could be fortuitous.

Gawande is a surgeon who has written about the power of medicine to keep us alive and how medicine can also jeopardize our end of life quality. It haunted me to read about the dire conditions in so many of our hospitals and nursing homes where the inevitable push to keep us alive can also damage the human spirit. The author talks of finding ways to make the end of our lives more comfortable and meaningful.

I spent nine months watching my husband suffer in the hospital under the worst conditions. I try not to blame myself for urging him forward, not wanting him to die, because I know he wanted to live. But at some point, after watching him struggle, I wish I had had the presence of mind and the guidance from his medical team to consider hospice. If it is what he wanted,  I would have stopped the constant assessments, the procedures, the ICU runs. I would have set him free. But we never had the conversation.

While I did not have Being Mortal to educate and guide me in the most emotional period of my life, I am now more informed about how medicine can enhance the end of our lives. I now realize the dying have a choice. Regardless of how devastating it might be to discuss death with a loved one, it can be a precious conversation and a gift. If the situation warrants it, counter the caring doctors who do everything in their power to keep us alive, and advocate for the wishes of your loved one.

In hindsight, of course, we can clearly think through what was a blur of emotion in an earlier moment. If I’m honest with myself, I don’t think I could have talked with my husband about dying. I just couldn’t imagine life without him. Our daughter, who is a doctor, couldn’t watch him suffer anymore. She talked to him and told him we knew he was getting better, but if there was ever a time he couldn’t go on, we would support him. He thanked her and told her he would be thinking about their conversation. He died a month later.

I now know how important it is to give someone you love the opportunity to express themselves, to share their fears and wishes, even in the midst of emotional turmoil. Have the conversation so you both know how you think about this inevitable part of being mortal.

 

 

In our new reality, do not let fear take over our hearts

I had considered a pilgrimage walk on the Camino de Santiago after my husband died a year ago. My research confirmed that it would be an important and unforgettable trip. As it turned out, though, I never made it to Spain. I found the contemplative path driving across the country, heading west.

During his ten months in the hospital battling heart failure, my husband was discharged only twice for short periods of time. He never regained enough strength for a heart transplant and several days after his death, I flew from the east coast to northern California to be with our children. When my trips back and forth across the country became more frequent, I realized I would need my car in the Bay Area. I also knew that the time alone, being with and feeling all of the difficult emotions, was an important step for me.

My drive began from Virginia at the end of Oct, 2016 and I arrived in San Francisco ten days later after traveling 3,300 miles through 15 northern states. It gave me the quiet time I needed to reflect, laugh, pray, and cry as I remembered the past, thought about my life, and tried to stay in the moment. Along the way, I rediscovered, once again, my own center and inner strength.

I was in San Francisco for less than a week when I felt the challenges of starting over in a new environment. My friends and family were in Washington DC and I didn’t know many people beyond my children in California. All of the uncertainty was compounded by the emotional impact of the presidential election a week after I arrived. The path I had forged during my long distance trip was beginning to unravel even before I had a chance to settle in. Then, in conversation with a friend, I discovered Spirit Rock.

The Spirit Rock Meditation Center in northern California focuses on the teachings of the Buddha. One of its founders, Jack Kornfield, who has taught alongside Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama, would be leading the first class that I had planned to attend. He must have been the impetus for the 400 people who showed up that night.

After leading our meditation, he asked the audience what topics they were interested in having him discuss. Without hesitation, participants shouted out their words: despair, anger, disbelief, racial attacks, global warming, human rights. He wrote down what he had heard and then shared his stories and encouragement.

Kornfield spoke about The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, written by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, two individuals who have suffered exile and violence and, yet, have remained very joyful. Kornfield talked about having the courage to be true to yourself. Don’t let the fear take over the heart, no matter what the thought. Carry a sense of happiness and joy in the midst of sorrow, and delight in being alive, no matter what happens, he told us.

The uncertainty that permeates our country has led to fearful emotions that were reflected in our group that evening. Kornfield asked a rhetorical question: What do you do in times of despair? The first act of courage, he said, is humility. You show your humanity. You show your vulnerability. Stay present and still, even in the midst of uncertainty.  Be present for the way things are and listen. Ask “what do you want?” And, then listen. Don’t act until the right act comes forward.

We’re in the middle of something vast and we need to find a trust so that we can do our part in this. Do your best, he suggested. Your voice, your spirit is available. One person with courage is the majority. Others may be cruel; we will not. You can be fearful or you can have a separate consciousness that opens the freedom of your spirit, no matter what, he said.

Despite where we started that evening, many of us left feeling uplifted. We had work to do to make sure our voices were heard in between the anger, fear and frustration.  His talk reminded me of the contemplative path on my drive west. When you open the freedom of your Spirit, you feel the inner wisdom and guidance from within.

My connection to Spirit ebbs and flows and requires a reminder for me to refocus. I get frustrated when I often forget so much of what I’ve learned, but something always materializes that pulls me back to my center.

I would have undoubtedly been complacent if my candidate had won. Instead, I have a renewed energy and sense of urgency that had been missing. I plan to take advantage of my new condition, staying committed to taking the high road. I remain open to the idea of not letting fear take over my heart, or my voice.