Twas the day after Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even my Mother in Law. And what, to my surprise, was on my mind as I awoke? Absolutely nothing, and that is no joke.
The house is a whirl of sugar and gifts. My plans to blog lessons met up with new twists. My dreams were not sugar plum fairies and fun, but rather anxiety, lost in the Sun. There I was on the beach with my husband in France, and then in a flash, the dark side of Paris - off in a trance. The strangers were helpful, but my memory lost, and their quizzical looks did come at a cost. My panic was growing as I jumped on the train, only to think "is this route insane?" Now I'm wandering Paris at a loss for direction, and growing concern this will lead to rejection. My purse and my friends are still on the beach. My memory for names has moved further from reach.
Then slowly and gently reality sets, and I open my eyes wondering is this a test? Sure there's stress and a sweet tooth, hormones and more..all the triggers disrupting our brilliance of yore. But is this dream a fair warning to watch what I eat? Or a deep inner knowing of early defeat?
The lesson I planned was “to be in the now”, but I woke like a zombie who’s questioning how. The excess of Christmas slows my brain to a crawl. Thoughts wander restlessly in this future mall. For anxiety hangs in the future you see. What if? What then and where will I be? That fear of the future steals NOW like a crime. Will prayer, meditation restore me to prime? Should I laugh off the dream and ignore what it means? Or take early action to fit in my jeans? The triple blind studies, it’s all coming back…My brains high performance won’t cut any slack. For five pounds lost there’s significant boost and it’s only a bonus that belts may be loosed.
Then who but depression comes out of the past? Taunting and poking "your Joy cannot last". Reminders come flowing of Loved Ones who died. With memories of loss, then again I cried. And then, even worse, my pants will not zip, and my mind goes plumb wild on this miserable trip. We're surrounded by media warnings galore, if your thighs touch together, your life is a chore. And then with a laugh the absurdity hits, my perspective's been blown into too many bits. Our cells will react to it all just the same – tragedy and death - or a tiny weight gain.
So let's pull together and choose where we are, the past in depression or the future too far. With a mindful sigh and a deep breath in, find Love in the moment. Hold it there with a pin. To attract all that’s good, “be here now” is the motto, or watch life pass you by while you wait for the Lotto.
And with that, I’m off. Yes, off in a good way – to be here now.
The Proof of Burden
When you consider the states of mind that have the greatest impact on our “Will to Live”, you will find they are all derived from the far end of a continuum defined by Love (nurturing) and Fear (depleting). From what I have witnessed, the fear of being a Burden and/or burdened ranks among the most intense for impact on wellness. Shame, Grief and Resentment are nearby neighbors on the scale of energy vacuums. All of these interfere with the attraction of abundance (success, love, wealth, contentment, joy, wellness).
Burden is a fabricated state of mind, and thus reversible to those who are attuned to mindfulness, authenticity and self love. But even the best of gurus experience their human moments of self doubt, and at some point question whether they have burdened another.
The challenge I pose to you, is to lighten the sense of burden for a fellow human. It may be as simple as reinforcing to your child what a joy they are in your life, despite the spilled milk. Perhaps you are caregiver to someone and truly finding them to be a burden on the life you had planned. Take two steps. First, ask for help to relieve you a bit. Second, assign your parent, patient or child a task that is within their reach and valuable to you, to reinforce their sense of contribution and place in this life. It may be as simple as folding towels or as complex as designing your next dream house. Notice how adding to their sense of worth will lift up your heart.
Despicable Me is a favorite among my animated movies. I particularly enjoy when the disappointing Mother finally tells her grown son "you have done well". The title resonated with the label I applied to the furthest end of the Love-Fear spectrum. Where self talk has carried us to the furthest depths of distortion and worthlessness, I had written "despicable me" as the predominant mindset.
Robin Williams, with his Parkinson's diagnosis layered upon a distorted self perception, likely only envisioned the burden he would pose as his dis-ease progressed. Yet his worth to our world remained boundless. The goodness in his passing has been the tremendous awareness of the need for attention to those in similar states of mind.
Mind disruption is experienced in levels. Medical attention is called for in the most severe of cases. But what about the smaller distortions? Being mindful and able to accurately label our feelings and release the small and large self angers, resentments and distortions of thought is attainable. Trauma release through rapid resolution therapies such as EMDR, ART (Accelerated Resolution Therapy) and other Professionally administered techniques is recommended.
Data supports the effectiveness of meditation, yoga, Tapping, Heart Forgiveness programs and techniques that in essence heal the fight or flight centers of the brain and assist in releasing accumulated negative energy of old experiences that no longer serve us. Letting go of the past takes more than simply stating we have done so.
When you are able to identify and label burden in yourself or another, take action. Within yourself, consider learning Tapping techniques - a quick way to diffuse the negative charge. When it is evident that another is experiencing being a burden - do not state that label to them. Instead, shift the conversation to conveying how they are providing you a sense of joy during this time of giving. But only if this is true. If you are feeling burdened, then pray, meditate or tap away first. Find what works for you.
To my Warrior Women and anyone in any state of recovery, know that Giving IS Receiving. Your friends are, for the most part, honored and benefit from their time with you. Asking for help is challenging to most. Do accept it when it is offered. Don't judge those who become distant at this time. It is not personal. Giving is NOT nurturing unless done with love, so there is mental training required when family obligations take over the life we had planned. Make this time serve you.
Last night I scheduled to visit my friend going through Chemo and Radiation nearby. I was looking forward to catching up, but also knowing I enjoy when I have offered to be of service picking up dinner or just listening. What a wonderful surprise when she turned the tables and took me out to dinner and encouraged me to tell her about my travels and personal challenges. It meant the world to me. I left with a beautiful memory. And I knew that for this night the idea that she would be a burden to anyone was banished.
These are the moments that build a life well lived. -Pam 8/20/2014
You Say You Have a Screw Loose?
Rewiring of my brain is a tempting option. Neurostimulation in the form of an innocent supplement, for only one day mind you, has already proven more of a change than I'm willing to embrace. It had the enticing benefit of reforming me into a clean freak with a sudden urge for order and closure. I confidently stepped into a client consult that day and bombed. All my usual intuition and empathy was out the door, replaced by a keen ability to hear all of the words spoken - rather than my usual awareness of what needed attention between the lines. I had sacrificed my greatest talent - intuition, to be more like others I admired.
Nobody will ever be all things to all people, so human nature has most of us wanting the talents we are missing, rather than leveraging those we were born with.
My authentic self is spontaneous, adaptable, quick to the bottom line summary, whimsical, soul-full, brilliant under pressure and deadlines, tender hearted, easily depleted by routine and structure. Sounds great, right? Wrong. By current societal standards and measures all of that may add up to Attention Deficit. Throw in Auditory Learning Disability, disorganized, impulsive, and generally low on the filters needed for refined business behaviors.
Neuroscience has advanced to allow measurement of our brain function and provide us with the resources to make changes. There are options from exercises to rewire through electronic stimulation of key points. Pain management is a great use of the latter. Or for the correction of chemo brain decline. Or disease and dementia reversals. But not the revision of our innate God given wiring, in my opinion. It is a personal choice to change our brain, but so often it is a decision made by others we respect, perhaps even before we are of an age to decide for ourselves.
Wouldn't life be easier if we were all alike? Oh, dear God no. Volumes of evidence support the fact that productivity requires a diversity of players on any team striving for a goal. Yet traditional (U.S.) education systems are structured to reward the most organized and detailed auditory learners. History has shown that is not the nature of our most prized Entrepreneurs, Presidents, Scientists and World Leaders. It is certainly not the innate side of our artists, craftsmen and skilled laborers. Those who are fortunate rise above the social norms and thrive with their talents. The less fortunate turn to medications to adapt, never learning how to apply their natural talents in our world and often feeling displaced, perhaps just getting by on support and subsidies.
Just for today, whether society validated your talents or you are a member of the larger pool of outliers, take a moment to recognize and express your genuine appreciation of the deliverables and differences in a friend or co-worker. And while you are at it, offer a word of thanks to yourself. You are perfect.
- Pam 8/13/2014
7 Minute Weight Loss
This morning I ventured out for my usual walk. Not exercise, but a brief 10 minute walk, unencumbered, which I was taught will deliver left/right brain integration, calmness and generally start the day off on the right foot. Along the way I spotted a young neighbor that I did not know by name, but who always smiled and waved. I called him over to talk.
I apologized for an "episode" we had last week on the river. I just now realized how heavily it was weighing on me. Essentially, they had borrowed our dock for a quick run back to their house to inflate a tube. Honestly, this is no big deal, except others take this as a sign we are open to all, and the give an inch take a mile responders show up. Although we did not know this family, another neighbor told them we would not mind. In truth we do mind, and let them know. He said we were very nice about it and they were not offended and fully understood. Still it felt so un-neighborly at the time.
Putting aside the liability issues, we enjoy having our privacy - and sharing our haven when we invite others over. McGyver built the dock and much of the house, so perhaps we are more protective than others. Yet, it is such beautiful access to the river I believe it should be open to all. Then I recall how hard we worked and how much we paid and yes it is ok to own a piece of this God given space. It has taken years for my adjustment from a fenced in suburbia life, to understand that others will wander on to our open land no matter what the signs say. As with all the small annoyances of life, a tiny shift of perspective and a deep breath will get me through. We were not all raised with the same boundaries, so tolerance is essential.
Back then, to the conversation on the street. We got to know each other and then exchanged phone numbers. I said do not hesitate to use the dock - for emergencies. Call with a heads up, so that watching neighbors do not beckon us home to investigate. Then I finished the 10 minute walk feeling significantly lighter than when I started, and knowing much more about this gentleman.
Is there anything weighing on you like this? Of course, for most. Start with these small issues and resolve what you can. Occasionally scan your body and listen from your heart. The larger burdens such as recovery or loss, are best turned over to your higher power. If you are seeking an actual 7 minute weight loss program, consider turning that over as well. Emotional eating and the rebound of strict diets are challenging. Working out inner burdens and improving self-love first, will allow the food we take in, to actually nourish our bodies. With every bite, every thought, every task or action, stay ever aware of the question: Is this nurturing or depleting to me? Do not leave things unresolved. Give yourself the level of care you offer loved ones. - Pam 7/18/2014
"Motherless Daughters" revisited
"Motherless Daughters" published in 2004. The title alone seized my heart and tugged me through the wringer. I cried more at seeing this, than I did during initial mourning. Over two decades have passed since I read this book, and I recall only the title. The impact remains. While it slammed me with the reminder of the void left at losing my Mother, it reminded me I'm not alone in my responses. At some point, nearly every daughter will be without her Mother while we still walk the earth. For Mothers who have, or will, lose a daughter, the injustice is exponentially greater. Dealing, in either case, is as individual as the stars are plentiful. The process of release applies to sons and Fathers with parallels - but not exactly the same.
In my early career, although Mom was not a woman of routine, she would call daily at my office around 3pm. My shoulders would rise and breathing go shallow with anticipation of being disrupted from my oh so important job. And then the day came, the end, where I would give my soul to have her call again, and this time I would be present and engaged. It took years to stop looking up at the clock as 3pm approached, and decades before I realized the need to forgive myself for the small and large regrets of our relationship. Why, after death, does her perfection seem so clear?
When the loss is recent, our challenge is to sleep through the night, wake in the morning, create some sense of normalcy in our lives. With time, our desire grows, to hold on to all she taught us, all we remember. Memories today are more thoroughly recorded in pictures. Does that make it easier? Or was it better to imagine my Mother's moments as they may have occurred between the infrequent photos? I hold tightly to her radiant smile in her one photo taken over the kitchen sink - the only place I picture her clearly. But in my every response to the events of life, I feel her influence powering through, and I am convinced she has never left me.
For the many ladies who were not blessed with an amazing Mom, I recommend rewriting your story. At least the difficult times. The true Moms in your life are those who encourage you along and support you in whatever direction life takes you. Thank them. It does not require biological matching. If your Mom is so misaligned with you, that avoidance is your dominant relationship, then study your differences. Remember that she is also a daughter created by her Life Lessons, and those of her Mother, and her ancestors. Allow for that and observe. It is possible you will find a shift in expectations that allows you to breathe more deeply.
Sunday morning - thoughts from the dock. 7-13-2014
Tip a Canoe and Alligators Too
There is that memory. In the canoe with safety drifting past consideration. 20 years ago, when balance and ease of movement were a given, a gift taken for granted. It was a crisp day in Florida filled with more light than you would think possible. Not the usual steamy soft air of this region.
When did that mobility and spontaneity slip away into this blissfully comfortable existence within un-comfortable bodies? The irony of retirement is that it delivers the most free and flexible phase of life - just as our bodies and minds have denied both.
And where is the canoe? Gathering moss beside the house, unused since that luscious afternoon on the lake. The thought: "oh, that's why he won't sell it". It only came to mind this morning, as we plan a rare date to go fishing. I've labeled the mini excursion "romantic" to assure it is the two of us without our fab friends. These days it seems only under duress that we leave the comfort of our kindles and anti-gravity chairs to venture out socially. I don't recall the last date night out alone. Those seem to be reserved for our friends with children and grand plans in their life.
Before this comes across as too pitiful, I must mention that we just returned from an adventurous vacation in the Baja - scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, hiking. We are not fully into our sunset days - and don't intend to go there. Neither of us is actually retired, but our idealistic lifestyle on the river gives that impression. We are incredibly grateful for all that has come our way after 40 - leaving the angst of our earlier lives behind.
Why, after 24 years together, are there still interactions that don't meet our mutual expectations? That's easy - and true of nearly every one of you. Our inner actions ie. responses, are dominated by expectations, often conditioned by our lives. Whether your expectations are high or low, they are nearly always accompanied by "niggles". Niggles of uncertainty - not the best fertilizer to the thoughts that attract goodness into our lives. The most daunting of niggles, is fed by the desire to have our partner's mind, and thus behavior, respond just as ours would. That would truly make for a life of ease - anticipating each other's every thought and move. And possibly not be very interesting as an end result. When you no longer have the energy to live fully, then that predictability may be a logical path.
We, however, continue to choose the wild ride that our Love holds together in our safe zone, knowing the extremity of our differing minds. It is often challenging - but never personal. It is fun, passionate and productive - except when it is not. We have been greatly rewarded for our efforts and faith, once we allowed the reality of who we are, and understood that we are, genuinely, fully responsible for everything in our lives. And now, it's time to take action for those areas where our attention has dwindled.
Alone is so much safer than together, right? Together we ventured out in that canoe, covered the bases for an amazing day dancing with mutual expectations. Alone would also be amazing, with more ease - with egrets and herons, fish jumping, water sparkling. But when the alligator arrived, sounding like the pull of a motorboat engine starting, my vote is entirely on togetherness. I'll never know if we were truly safe, but the natural talents of my husband included quietly maneuvering away, while assuring me all is well. My trust knew no limits. Until, a few years later, there was a shark encounter. But then, that is another story.
(post article update - no bites, but a sweet day on the water, greeted by Manatee.)
My (1st) Wedding story - let it go
We all have lessons to share, thru the stories from our past. The lessons have value, the stories do not. So it is with hesitation that I will share my stories, with the intent that you will glean the meaning from the lessons.
For those who saw the Movie "The Big Fat Greek Wedding", it serves as a fairly accurate backdrop of the "noise" I recall from childhood. While I am 3/4 Italian and only 1/4 Greek, it captures the family dynamics of love and angst - with the demands to live up to cultural expectations of how and when to marry and move through life, respecting elders. I followed none of the expectations, though I did get roped into a larger than intended wedding at barely the age of 19. Later I delivered the family shame of divorce as I turned legal at only 21. I was 42 before committing again to marriage, having missed the window of opportunity for the large Catholic Italian family that would have met with familial praise.
What have you done under the pressure to please? Seriously, we had an oversize guest list to make Mom happy. Every Mother dreams of her daughter's starlit wedding and the pats of approval for her birthing and raising a princess. I look back now at how beautiful a bride I made, but felt none of it then, riddled with insecurities. Hormones took center stage and I was zeroed in on sex without judgment. In that time and place, this meant Daddy's blessings, counseling by a new young priest clueless on relationships, and a shindig harrowing to the shy young bride. Living together without marriage never crossed our Catholic conditioned minds as a possibility.
Second only to sex, was my desire for babies. Not grown up costly, disrespectful kids, just cute cuddly babies. Disregard the fact that my groom expressed no interest in rug-rats. Did I expect to change his mind? I really don't recall what I was thinking - and suspect there was no thinking at all. No worries, the pre-marital counseling prescribed by the Catholic Church would surely resolve the dilemma. And there it was, explicitly directed in our session with the newly ordained priest at The Shrine: "Do you both commit to raise your children in the Catholic Faith?" Yes! Of course said I." Then without any sign of obligatory Catholic guilt, my fiancee says "I don't want children". Holy crap! In this vestibule of sanctity I expected he will be struck by lightening. Or at least a serious reprimand from Father Ed. But nothing. Worse than nothing. With only two weeks until our vows, the Priest says "you will work this out with time. Well, I gave it approximately two years - with no forward progress. We loved each other, but with zero concept of how to talk without defensiveness, we quickly compromised our way out of the marriage. Have you ever wanted to please someone so much that you second guess what they want, disregarding your own desires? We both did so daily. And now I see how far explicit communication, adapted to our differing MO's, would have gone.
Chalk this wedding up as my greatest episode of denial of every spark of intuition firing in my brain. I could have cancelled the wedding and returned gifts, but oh how I loved the treasures. Especially Aunt Mamie's hand painted casserole - used only on Thanksgiving and taking an entire shelf to store. Finally I have even let that go - to someone who will love it. I'm thankful for the wonderful time we did have together, and baffled that he then quickly remarried a woman who had a child. Wow, those little things in life are ouchies. And confusing. But, the fact is, we don't always get to know the answers to every "why?". We do get to embrace the perfect sequence of our lives.
"Everything happens for a reason", he says. And it did. Jim Antonopulos, my Father, was the quietest Man I've ever known, then he says something this simple and profound to me. He told me he is quiet to allow Mom to talk so much - and because he had only one vocal cord. His right side was left paralyzed following removal of a brain tumor, when I was only three years old. I only knew the quiet man. My Sisters and Brother knew the Businessman, Athlete, Hunter that he was before the 1957 surgery that left him long in a coma. Mom was barely 40, with 5 children and now a husband in rehab. Every one of her children has a completely different memory of those years.
As life marches forward, at an alarming pace, I continue to look backward to the patterns that don't serve. It is amazing how many decades they have crossed. While life is more fulfilling now than ever, there remains a mountain of molehills to be cleared. Forgiveness of myself, God and others is ongoing. Gratefulness for the amazing journey this has been is immense. And all the credit goes to Jim & Clara. I do so Love my parents, and recognize what a gift we all had in them. - Pam
Hyphen Slinging Kind of Day
Waking in dis-comfort, throughout this long night, I have added a layer of self judgment. Since my teens, episodes have been triggered by food, chemical, stress and sound sensitivities. Great wellness teachings, yoga, nutrition have controlled the responses, but occasionally an un-stable day presents itself.
This is not setting a good example, having committed to using my own transformed life as the bedrock of the ATAP offerings. First and foremost, I believe in the power of language. I will now sling hyphenated words at an unusual pace, in the erasure of our dis-empowering terms. (Fade out: Pain-Fear-Hate-Angry, Replace with dis-comfort-no faith, really really dis-like, very very un-happy) Negative affirmations are OK in my book - so long as attached to empowering words. It is my experience that the universe/God/Force Field (you choose) ignores the have nots. "I'm not as well as I would like" attracts wellness. I'm not sick, attracts sick.Call me un-stable if you don't see the logic. Do it and see. Who said it? Do, or don't do. There is no try.
Even in the best of lives, we experience the hurdle of moments. News that uproots our grounding, as occurred yesterday from a friend. How we deal with those challenges will improve - and regress throughout our lives. Take note of what does, and does not work, specifically for you. Expand your mind to allow new possibilities for a better outcome, when it seems no doors remain open. For those who live in deep faith, turning challenges to higher powers of God is a response that supports good health. Even then, when a loss is too great to bear or a dis-comfort too intense to ignore, we dance with demons of un-certainty in our mind.
As I write these words, the morning cries of disappointment by a neighbor's toddler are piercing the calm sunrise. I am envious. A loud sobbing wail about now (by me) would really clear the air. Tears would be cathartic. But they don't come easily after a lifetime of "chin up" and "be strong". Yeah, orgasms are a great wellness prescription. But it is a different clearing to reach into the depths of un-happiness, sorrow, and accept that we do not have the wherewithal to fix every in-justice.
Advances in science make it possible to test and predict with pinpoint accuracy the type, location and source (in the body) of cancers. Yet there is little advance in cancer prevention since my Mother's diagnosis in the 60's. New tests even predict probability of recurrence and metastasis (spreading to other organs). Some Doctors, with all good intent - and often pressure from the family, still offer a prognosis timeline for survival. Our minds are powerful, and the majority of patients will comply and pass away on schedule - some precisely to the day. Is this serving us well?
My dilemma today is this certainty in my heart, that our friend has the ability to beat the prognosis delivered to her yesterday. I know this. I am sending healing prayers. Yet I feel power-less to ease this new layer of trauma for her.
Our Western medicine approach is rarely faith based. "If you don't do this, you may not live". "When you follow these treatments, there is the possibility of these side effects". The placebo effect is validated - wellness follows our belief in a pill or therapy, even when the healing agents are absent. The nocebo effect is just as real, but rarely discussed. That is, the patient's info flyer full of possibilities...un-healthy side effects, actually has the power to influence a patients reactions and anxiety at un-safe levels. Does this mean ignore the warnings? Well, no, but do take on the belief that these are suggestions for someone else, not you. You are perfect. You are well. -Pam
What I now have to show for a life excessively touched by Cancer is a firm grasp that the present moment IS a Present – and a sizeable box of Thank You cards for being there. “Carpe Diem” is inscribed on a silver bracelet gifted from a friend recovering this week. Seize the Day. You must.
Ovarian Cancer haunted my gene pool, 3 times, so sitting with my Mom-in-Law in 2006 for her first diagnosis of Breast Cancer, I was the epitome of ignorance – though wonderful loving support. 6 years later, at her 2nd Diagnosis, I had been around the block. Now with 3 close friends/thrivers I told Mom’s Doctor to STOP talking and let Mom catch her thoughts. Then I asked the question everyone should carry on a note: “What do we need to know that we have not asked?”. Doctors become amazing resources from that point. Healing follows Believing – in your Doctor, your treatment plan, your family, your higher power. -Pam 1/31/14
Leave your Life Lessons
What are your top tips? This is my list: (January, 2014)
1. Be authentically you. What did you love doing at age 5? Do you thrive at what you do now?
2. Breathe deeply, move and stretch frequently. Walk to balance. Pray and meditate daily.
3. Focus your eyes upward often, to assure your brain accesses pleasant thoughts
4. Speak to yourself as you would to a friend - with love and encouragement.
5. Give everyone benefit of the doubt. You don't know what's going on in their life.
6. Your words have power to materialize. I’m not slim, creates slim. I’m not fat, creates fat. Avoid words that are tentative ie. try, should, could. Replace with more impactful “I WILL”.
7. See, Touch, Feel the outcome you intend, dreams you dream, in your mind NOW, so that your plans will get you there. Remove hurdles in the path.
8. Nourish your soul with love and good music. Turn off toxic TV, news, advertisements
9. Nourish your body by eating mindfully and unplugged, with family or alone to soothing music.
10. Know what is true for you in this moment - not believing everything you hear and read, or even your own stories for that matter.
11. I choose to avoid, where possible, high fructose corn syrup, artificial additives & food coloring, partially hydrogenated oils, chemicals on my skin, chemicals in cleaning products, hormones antibiotics and pesticides in my food. Yes: Coconut Oil (Extra Virgin, cold processed organic), baking soda, citrus and white vinegar will replace most cleansers and lotions. Chemical sensitivities and joint dis-comfort in my early life gave motivation. Prevention of diabetes, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease are added incentives.
12. Eat more organic raw food, and less genetically modified, processed and packaged food. Dark leafy greens, ancient grains, seeds, berries, healthy oils (avocados, nuts) are powerhouse foods. Test to know your alkalinity is optimal (6.5 to 7.5). Search for Acid/Alkaline food reference chart. Dis-ease will not thrive in an alkaline environment.
13. In choosing a relationship, consider my Mom’s advice: A man will treat you like he treats his Mother. A woman like she treats her Father. Pay close attention before committing.
14. Giving IS Receiving. Your problems diminish when you are busy doing for others. This is great therapy for mood elevation and wellness.
Writing to you, knowing how unique our viewpoints may be. When resisting, ask yourself "What Else is Possible?". My experience and personal truth in any moment is just that - mine for you to consider. All Things are Possible - ATAP