Friday, March 30, 2012

Grief: Tipping The Scale

I have been feeling tired physically and emotionally.  I wound up writing this for someone and thought I would share it with you.  It's still part of grief for me.  Some days or stretch of days I find difficult to do more than the bare minimum.   I do try to show up for at least one thing a day.  The more I give in to my stuckedness the stickier it gets!!

Once upon a time a woman was supposed to come up with a metaphor and all she could think of was a metagainst. She balanced the scales. On one side were all the wonderful things in her life which she knew and was very grateful for. On that same side were all the skills and techniques she had learned to make herself feel better. On that same side were all her friends, old and new, and all the wonderful things they had said about her. On the other side was one thing. Her husband was dead. Somehow, some days that one thing tipped the scales and weighed more than all the other things. It didn't make any sense but that was the way it was.

The woman cancelled exercise and stayed in bed. She had plans to meet someone for dinner and a show so she got up to check her e-mails. She had learned to keep putting herself where life was and didn't want to cancel the evening too.

The woman knew one very important thing. Tomorrow or maybe even later today the scales would tip back the other way. That her husband was dead would always have weight. However, she knew that her alive husband had given her much joy and her husband's spirit was like a second skin, loving her even now. That is what would tip the scales back because her husband death was on both sides. Sometimes it held her down and sometimes it lifted her up.

She began writing the metagainst to her very special friend and in the middle it turned back into a metaphor: The woman would forgive herself for having tipsy scales. It's what she told everyone else. Forgive yourself. It's part of being real.

I hope that today your scales are tipped in a direction that lets you feel all the beauty and happiness around you.  If not - I hope they tip over that way soon.  If you haven't piled enough stuff on the happy side - start piling.  There must be something.  I know the more I look the more I see.  The more I ask what else am I glad about, the more answers I get.  Extra hugs for everyone - including me.  xo

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Grief: Riding the Grief Train

A little metaphor I wrote for a friend and wanted to share with all of you.

When the grief train pulled into my station I got on and found a comfortable seat to snuggle into.  I watched the world go by and was quite content in my unhappiness.  Then I saw that other people were getting off the grief train.  Some of them I never saw again and I didn't know where they went.  Others would get off and get back on again.  We talked about the adventures they had.  I began to realize that maybe my comfortable seat wasn't so comfortable anymore.  Maybe I could participate in some adventures instead of just being an observer.  I took my baggage with me and got off at the very next station.  I had quite a lovely time.  Now I had a story to tell when I got back on train.  I was surprised when someone told me that I could leave my baggage on the train when I decided to get off.  I was rather attached to my baggage.  However, I decided to try it.  I was given a golden receipt to reclaim it and that reassured me.  This time when I got off of the train I decided to stay off longer.  I had several adventures.  When I got back on the train, there was all my baggage waiting for me.  I didn't need so much of it now.  The man in charge of the baggage compartment told me there were a lot of people who loved to carry a lot of baggage and he would give some of mine to them.  And so it went. 

I still like to journey on the grief train.  Sometimes when I look out of the window I see wonderful memories of events that happened in the past.  Sometimes when I curl up in my seat I spend time with people who have died.  I've kept the parts of my baggage I'm not ready to let go of yet.  I open it up and unpack it a little.  It is lighter now.  I've discovered that the people who I'm lonely for don't have to stay on the grief train.  They come with me wherever I go.  I like having them with me on my adventures.  I had turned the grief train into a prison.  It isn't.  It's a way to journey to new places, especially when I am willing to go through the open doors to see what is waiting for me. 

I would have rather not been a passenger at all.  However, now that I am, I am beginning to see that I am not a desperate or helpless passenger.  I am also the person who plans the journey and makes the adventures happen.  I have been given tickets to an unlimited number of places.  Many colors of tickets.  Many sizes of tickets.  It is up to me how many of them I use.  How will I figure it out?  Partly by talking to other people - those who are on this journey and those who are on other journeys.  Partly by listening to the spirits of my beloved dead who still talk to me.  Partly by listening to my own heart.  Sometimes by looking at myself and the world through the eyes of those who love me instead of my own eyes.  Perspectacles.  There are many maps and I have time and freedom to find the one that is right for me.  Sometimes staying on track.  Sometimes getting off and wandering around discovering things.  Sometimes getting off with a definite plan to accomplish. 

All these choices are mine because I am among the living still.  The more I can do here the more I know those who have gone before me will be proud of me that I am still learning.

When   you are ready to get off your own grief train I wish you many adventures and that   you find that you need less and less baggage as your journey continues.  xo

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Grief: Liking the New Guy and A Gift Of Slippers

Two short blogs for the price of one.

I thought I needed something a  little lighter. I like the new guy.  Not of course, in my personal life! That would be too simple.  John Nettles played a detective in Midsomer Murders for something like 80 episodes.  DVDs are my night time companions since my husband died.  I know John Nettles is an actor and I will probably never even meet him.  Yet, if I fell in love again it would be with a man like him.  Of a certain age, cuddly rather than buff, and with a twinkle in his eye.  When he retired, as he well deserves after so many episodes, I thought I would miss him.  I do.  However, the man who is the new lead - Neil Dudgeon is quite fun to watch.  I like the new guy.  I didn't think I would.  If I can do it with someone in a TV show - who knows, maybe I can do it in real life.  Everything in me says NO! but there is a sweet small voice that says - maybe.  If not, I have Artie's love and I can wait.  I have my grandbaby to cuddle and my daughter to be so proud of.  She is a good mom.  I wish that all of you who have had children die could have them back.  I also know that liking the new folk doesn't mean forgetting the ones we love.  I will always love Artie.  I will always miss Artie.  Even if there is, some day, a new guy in my real as opposed to TV life. I'm glad I can tell the difference. One sign of sanity.  :)

The gift of slippers.  If anyone reading this knows Erin's friend who is in the hospital, please don't tell him.  He is a beautiful young man of 36. He has very aggressive cancer and his last chemo treatment burned his body from the inside out.  First of all, let's hope and if you pray, pray, he will make his graduation from Columbia University on May 15th.  He is the first person to graduate from college in his family. He has worked very hard for this.  He asked my daughter to bring him a few things, including slippers.  Since my husband died his slippers have been next to my bed.  I know he has no feet to put in them, but I have liked the comfort of the illusion.  They are perfect slippers.  They are soft and fleecy inside and the top is velcro so matter how much your feet swell or how painful they are you can adjust them accordingly.  I didn't even think twice about it.  I put the slippers in my bag to give to Erin's friend.  He doesn't know they were Artie's.  I don't want him to know that Artie wore them while he was dying.  He only knows that they are great slippers.  That is the best kind of gift - the quiet one.  I miss them.  I keep telling myself the truth.  Artie is not in his slippers.  Our beloved dead are not in their clothes or in the sheets they slept on.  Artie isn't even in that darn Yankee Jacket I keep wearing.  I hope Erin's friend is the exception.  I hope he lives and he can laugh about this terrible time.  If he doesn't I hope that when he dies he finds that there is some place else where he lives without pain.  I hope Artie will be there to welcome him and perhaps someone else will have the slippers next to their bed. 

This isn't on DVDs.  I have to organize my taxes.  Life goes on in the form of seeing the accountant tomorrow.  Not very dramatic, that one.  Living is highs and lows and just have to do the darn taxes.  As always, with love.  Jan who has no slippers next to her bed and is still a grief warrior.  xo

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Grief: The Emotional Shift Dance

I wonder how much of a shift is needed.

I lost everything.

The most important person in my life died but what else do I have?

What can I do to make what I have left of my life have meaning and joy?

Can   you make those shifts?  One of them?  Part of one of them?    You can make those shifts.

When Artie first died, before I learned any of this stuff, I used to say "We died." instead of "He died."  I meant it.  I thought I lost everything.  I couldn't believe he would leave me behind in all this pain.  I thought about suicide.  I researched it on line.  The irony of some people dying with a strange tiny mix of pills and other people living after taking massive doses of things.  I never read my previous posts but I would imagine the first ones are rather desperate.  I should look at them.  Maybe I will some day.  It would be interesting to read the very first one.

Why did I decide to live?  First of all, none of my friends would give me a going away party.  I had this rather insane idea that I could commit suicide and everyone would be happy for me and give me a big send off.  I even wrote a poem called The Suicide Hotel where you could die in complete and utter luxury.  Second, I couldn't hurt my daughter that way.  The thing that completely changed my mind was something small.  There is a man who works in my apartment building.  He always greets me with a big smile.  He has pictures of my granddaughter on his IPad.  One morning I came down and saw his smiling face.  I imagined how he would feel if he had to watch them carry my body out.

Then, after a while of living with gritted teeth it seemed to me that maybe I should figure out how to live not for others but also for myself.  Artie, my husband, was a recovering alcoholic.  I thought of all the people that came to our "Artie's dying party" and told him how much they loved him and how grateful they were.  I thought maybe my life would have meaning if I reached out to other grieving people.  One thing I did was start this blog.  I thought it might reach one or two people - just people who had a spouse die.  It has a much wider effect than I ever imagined.  I looked at my stats and people are reading it in the Ukraine.  The miracle of the internet.  It also seems to mean something to folks who have the sadness of any death of a loved person or pet.  Sometimes people thank me for changing their lives.  I don't change anyone's life.  I share my experience and you make the changes   you can  as   you are able.  If I had a magic wand and I could give you all what you want most - I would.  Instead what I have is words.

Then - getting tired of feeling so sad all the time and not wanting to be a client I started taking these trainings, learning all these techniques, and being able to implement some of them.  I've also met some wonderful people that give me support and make me laugh.  Of course, I've also become a grandmother.  In the middle of the photos of my gorgeous husband with the dazzling smile there is now - well, if you walk in -    you can see the big picture  of my daughter and granddaughter right in the middle of the pictures of my husband with the black roses and the crystal pyramid.  Life in the middle of death. 

There's a lot more of course.  Lots of ice cream and DVDs.  Lots of exercise - my body stretches in impossible ways as does my mind. 

Yesterday I was trying the "one thought away from a different feeling" experiment I wrote about.  I started calling myself a thought sharpshooter.  In comes the bad, sad thought - shoot it to pieces - let a happy glad one pop up in its place.  It was working.  I felt lousy.  Every muscle in my body said stay in bed, I hurt.  I went to exercise anyway and so much better after (thank you Alex) I walked home.  There was someone wearing a t-shirt from the store my husband liked.  I smiled a weird smile - one half of my mouth down - one half up.  O dear - then - wasn't it funny how Artie loved so many t-shirts I got there.  Didn't I feel great when I found something he loved.  Then I went to Whole Foods.  They must be doing a promotion.  The check out guy asked if I wanted to make a donation to the whole planet.  I thought and said - No, that was a little too overwhelming.  I noticed a pen attached to my paper bag.  Turned out it was his.  I said, "See, I did make a donation.  I donated your pen back to you."  That's more my style - can't save the whole planet but can make one person laugh.  On the way out they were playing a bluesy jazzy version of Loving That Man of Mine.  O dear again.  Who ever was in charge of the universe was really testing me.  I thought about Artie and I dancing together.  I thought about how much he loved jazz.  I thought how much I still love that man of mine.  I was doing the emotional shift dance without losing my balance.

Then, some idiot cut in front of two people, tried to pay for a $2 juice with a credit card and he wasn't allowed to.  The sales person was not overly bright.  I wound up muttering on my way out, "Okay.  Everybody's being obnoxious now and you have to stop it!"  I stayed grouchy for a while and then  I got back into a good space.

Then last night came the news that my daughter Erin would be flying in with the baby Gwendy because  her friend with cancer is in the hospital.  The chemo wasn't absorbed properly by his liver and his whole body is poisoned.  He is supposed to graduate Columbia University May 15th.  The first person in his family to graduate college.  He has worked so hard.  He might be okay.  Cancer is unpredictable and so Erin is flying in just in case.  Too much death and dying for me.  Too much everything.  Hello ice cream and chocolate chip cookies.  What's that all about?  It doesn't fix anything. 

I woke up in the middle of a nightmare.  I was lying on the bed with Artie telling him I wanted us to move in together.  He said he wasn't ready.  I had all these presents for him and I couldn't find them.  I was arguing with him.  It was like it was over 20 years ago and I was begging him to marry me.  Then when I was talking about it I realized - moving in with him now means dying - and of course - I'm not ready for that yet.  I am but I'm not.  How do I do the emotional shift dance when I am sleeping?

I'm writing my blog.  I'm cleaning up.  Remember the hits and forget the misses.  The most important person in my life - besides my daughter and granddaughter is in spirit form.  I miss him.  I didn't do everything perfectly.  However, I have great friends.  I haven't given up.  I made someone laugh.  I'm working on a story for class on Saturday.  I have my magick circles to step into. 

Maybe the emotional shift dance has some easy steps where you twirl around and around and some harder ones that take practice.  Maybe part of the dance is losing your balance and rolling around on the floor like a small child.  I'm going to keep practicing.  Why?  To honor my husband.  To stand on his shoulders and wave at him, "Hi honey!"  Why else?  For me.  Why else?  For you.  For all of us grief warriors.  Do it just for a second - think of all you have instead of all you have lost.  My daughter's friend is in the hospital fighting for his life.  Let's have the courage to fight for ours.  With love to you wherever you are today.  If it is a good place - hooray!   If it is a not so good place - hooray! anyway.  You are still breathing which means the good place may have already happened and all you have to do is open your heart to see it.  xo

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Grief: One Thought Away From A New Feeling

I'm sorry for not writing sooner.  It seems rather perverse to complain about allergies and a cold when so many people are battling cancer and other terrible diseases.  On the other hand, I do tend to sleep a lot and have a miserable lack of energy when this is going on.  It was also a tough week last week.  My friend Judy died after a long battle with cancer.  It was the anniversary of the death of a much loved friend's son, her only child.  My daughter's friend who is only 36 was in the hospital after he got an infection after chemo while fighting his cancer.  Another friend flew to Los Angeles because one of her closest friends was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.  What is wrong with this picture?  Too much sadness.  And, of course, last time I looked, my husband was still dead.  That means comforting myself.  I wish I did it in terrifically healthy ways.  I'm overstressed.  I think I'll go for a walk.  No - I have to eat too much and sleep too much. 

However, maybe not.  I have been showing up for exercise.  I did over the weekend show up at something called Stories from the Outside Inn.  It is a two day storytelling workshop but one that uses trance, hypnotic language, and all kinds of techniques.  During the very last 10 minute one of the presenters said, "Remember, you are only one thought away from a different feeling."  That stuck in my mind.  I always seem to have a process.  I'll say I'm feeling sad so - and then I start putting together what sometimes feels like a house of cards to boost myself up into some sense of being a human being.  What was this one thought thing?  I practiced it today.  When I was out I walked past a store called "The Art of Shaving".  It's where I managed to find Artie shaving things that wouldn't trigger my asthma.  I said, "Thank you Artie for thinking of me and giving up things you loved because of my allergies."  I walked past the store where I used to buy him t-shirts.  I said (all of this was in my head) "Thank you Artie for appreciating all the things I did for you."  When I bought him one t-shirt he liked he wouldn't say thank you - he'd say "Get me six more."  It turned into a joke.  It was like I was a sniper shooting at my bad sad thoughts.  I didn't have time to miss him, feel sorry that I was seeing a place connected with him.  I shot out the sad thought and replaced it with one that made me feel good.  I'm going to practice that more.  Stop saying, "I'm so sad I miss you." and start saying, "I'm so glad we love each other forever."

For me you know it has to be real.  If the shift doesn't happen, that's okay too. However, I'm willing to think  it might be a skill like any other.  If you want to play the piano well - hitting the right notes - you have to practice.  I want to practice making my thoughts about Artie focus on the happy times and on the love. What I haven't figured out is what to do with my body - or is it my mind?  With all the tragedy I had packed into one week I was able to feel good a lot of the time.  On the other hand, I kept forgetting things.  The presenter of my weekend workshop told us to put the clocks forward.  I woke up Sunday morning and was wandering around at 8:40 thinking I had a nice hour or so.  Then I went - oh no - it's 9:40.  I learned I can get ready in five minutes but I was late.  It's like when Artie first died no matter how careful I was I always put my clothes on backwards.  Hopefully I noticed before I left the house!  Sometimes even when we are trying to get our thoughts working well our bodies remind us that all is not well in our world.

During the workshop we did the Circles of Excellence that I call magick circles.  I talked about them in another post.  You picture a circle on the floor in front of you.  You picture the emotion you want to have.  What color is it?  It can be many colors. What does it feel like?  When you have it firmly pictured in your mind you step into the circle and feel the emotion - the colors - the thoughts - swirl around you, into you, filling you up completely.  You can do a roll up.  That is touch your toes - or as close as you can get to them! - roll up slowly until you are standing tall - and as you roll up have the emotion roll up with you.  When you feel it as completely as you can - step out of the circle.  Shake yourself back to neutral.  Then step back in.  You can pick up the circle and take it with you anywhere you need it.  I got the idea of putting circles down all over my apartment.  A feeling good circle where I stand when I get out of bed in the morning.  A healthy eating circle in front of the kitchen.  A motivation - just do it NOW circle in the hallway.  Repatterning my brain.  I wonder if I walk unconsciously through all of these circles if I lay them down with intention and care I can feel better and do more.  Another: watch this space.

When we were going to tell our story we were told to wear an imaginary super hero cape.  I didn't like that one as much.  I imagined having a crown on my head and I felt myself standing very tall.  My circle for telling the story had clear rippled glass and I repeated that I was calm, complete, and had a good memory.  It made me feel different in front of the audience. No one knew I had a crown on my head - but I did.  I was the queen of the storytellers! I had told a terrifically bad story on Saturday but on Sunday I got a WOW and applause and a thumbs up.  Keep on keeping on.  .

I wish I could say - shazaam - now it's all fixed. I don't feel that way.  I do feel that I have a lot more tools to use.  I'm not moving on or living more or saying goodbye.  I'm learning to be a happy person without Artie here physically - more of the time.  He must get bored with my whining and begging.  I have this corner of photos of him with his dazzling smile and his obituary and some black roses.  Now    you can see the big picture   of my daughter Erin and granddaughter Gwendy blue eyes in the middle.  Life in the middle of death.  Reminding me to be the earth living me until it is time to be the non-earth living me.  They are moving to the east coast at the end of April.  Hooray.  I had given up on that and now it is happening. 

The story I told was of seeing Aretha Franklin in concert the night before Whitney Houston's funeral.  I wrote a little about it.  I'm going to write it as a separate story.  I think - as I will say - that some stories don't have a beginning, a middle and an end.  Artie and I have always loved each other - and that even in death our relationship continues.  Some stories circle and circle taking you higher and higher - if you let them.  If you lose your balance and there are some crash landings along the way - you can gather your pieces and try again. 

I was talking to a special woman - the wife of one of the presenters.  We were talking about how to feel good about yourself.  She told me I was one of the cool kids.  Me.  A cool kid.  That's worth showing up for.  I know you are all one of the cool kids too - find it in yourself.  Embrace it.  Try. xo

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Grief: For Judy

Judy died last night after a long fight with cancer.  I wish you could have met her.  She was feisty and loving.  I met her when I was a volunteer. I visited her in federal prison.  I broke the rules and we became friends.  The only thing bigger than her laugh was her heart.  When she served her time she completely turned her life around. She worked hard and loved well. Instead of being rewarded,  life gave her cancer.  She was the kind of person who when she saw someone clearing trash on the street she would stop and ask how they were doing.  She was from Wyoming and when she came to NYC with her sister they took a taxi. The driver enjoyed being with them so much he didn't charge them.  In NYC.  Judy could be difficult and angry and all the other things people are.  However, she was full of love and hope and gratitude.  When she first stayed with me when my husband was alive Artie gave her the second degree.  I was embarrassed.  Judy said simply, "He has a felon in his house.  He can ask me anything he wants."  Artie respected her and loved her.  I hope he is with her now and they are hugging each other.  I hope he can help her get used to where she is instead of where she so much wanted to stay.

There is another side to this.  I always have said this blog was for honesty.  Judy called me about a month ago.  She told me not to call me back, that she would call me when things got bad so we could visit one more time.  I didn't call.  It was more convenient for me to visit her next month and that is what I was hoping to do.  She knows I love her.  Even before the cancer we always said that even if we didn't call we knew that we loved each other and that we were thinking of each other.  I forgot what I know.  I should have called.  I should have visited.  Do it now.  I know she forgives me and I know she died knowing how much I love her.  I am the one who lost something by being too involved in my own life to make the phone call no matter what she said.  When I do things like that the only thing to do is to try to forgive myself - but also to make it a cautionary tale.  Don't wait.  Say it now.  Do it now.  Tomorrow might be too late.  I'm sorry Judy.  I would have like us to laugh together in person one more time. 

My friend was going to spend my birthday/wedding anniversary with me but Judy was in Tucson that weekend.  I'm glad that my friend spent time with her.  I wish I had flown out to be them.  I can't turn back time.  Grief sometimes makes you selfish.  It made me selfish. 

Judy, here is my telephone call.  I love you very much.  Your courage and kindness will always be lessons to me.  I know that you love me and that you are grateful for all the experiences I provided for you.  I am just as grateful for all the experiences you provided for me.  I hope that we will get to visit again - wherever it is that you and Artie are now.  I hope the last time wasn't really the last time. I hope they have amazing Harleys wherever you are.  Judy once rode a Harley from Wyoming to Georgia with a bobcat on her lap.

I promise to look for the light when I am in the dark.  I promise to see the people I don't see, as you always did.  I promise to never forget your laughter.  I promise never to forget your ability to love and survive.  I promise never to forget your ability to hope.  I am sorry that your last hope failed you.  Maybe it didn't.  Maybe where you are now you are full of joy and your pain is gone.  Maybe your last hope was exactly what happened.  I have often thought of my husband that he died at the right time for him, just at the wrong time for all of us.

Judy, I want you to know that your life meant something.  You touched the people who got the good luck to meet you  - whether as a lifelong friend - or just for a second as you shared your concern and your smile. People always say rest in peace.  Judy - rest in light and feistyness and if you get a chance  - give my darling husband a hug - and tell God I am not happy today.  I would like an easier journey - but still I will do my best with the journey I have been given.

The ranks of grief warriors grow every day.  Let us find our inspiration no matter how difficult. 

To Judy - and to all our beloved dead - we'll take a cup of kindess yet for auld lang syne.

Time out.  I just googled "Auld Lang Syne". Who knew there were so many stanzas?" I'll leave you with these.  xo

My Heart is ravisht with delight,
when thee I think upon;
All Grief and Sorrow takes the flight,
and speedily is gone;
The bright resemblance of thy Face,
so fills this Heart of mine;
That Force nor Fate can me displease,
for Old long syne.

Since thoughts of thee doth banish grief,
when from thee I am gone;
will not thy presence yield relief,
to this sad Heart of mine:
Why doth thy presence me defeat,
with excellence divine?
Especially when I reflect
on Old long syne

Monday, March 5, 2012

Grief: Learning New Dance Steps

Let's make them dance steps instead of simply learning to walk again.  Yes, I know.  Sometimes it feels more like a boxing match than a dance.  I spent the weekend at my NLP training.  Neuro Linguistic Programming is a way of creating change that combines human creativity with the idea that the brain is like a computer that can be reprogrammed.  What we picture in our minds, what we say to ourselves, how we move, all affects how we feel.  After Artie died I did the bereavement group, therapist thing but after a while I got bored talking about myself.  If you count how many times, even in this blog, I've said the words sad and lonely it would be billions. I decided to take different kinds of training instead of being a patient or a client.

My favorite technique is one I have mentioned before.  It is to roll my memories backwards - with happy or silly music to before Artie died.  When I talked about being in the airport, hearing "Lean on Me" and being sad but for a short time it was because of that technique.  It used to take me a long time to do it.  Now it comes more quickly.  The song makes me sad in the present because my favorite person to lean on is dead.  However if I put myself in my imagination back in time when Artie and I were singing together in the audience, or when we were actually leaning on each other, holding each other - I feel the joy and the comfort I felt then.  It's not delusional.  I know he's dead.  I don't live in the past.  Well, sometimes I do. :)   However - why should I feel sad when I can feel good and become lighter?  The time you spend in a past moment to recapture those happy feelings you have to be squarely in the past - then you can bring not the past - but the feelings forward with you into the present.  You want to bring the happiness forward - not the sadness and longing backward.

When I was at excerise I was talking about Artie.  My trainer said that while I was doing that my shoulders - which are normally made of taut wire - relaxed.  That told me I was on the right track.  If loving Artie and being with him some of my day makes my body relax that reinforces my idea that for me moving on means saying not goodbye - but hello.  Welcome, Artie.  Thank you for still giving me so much every day.

I learned another technique this weekend that I feel works well.  You picture a feeling you are having about a situation.  Think of what color it is, what it feels like.  Then you imagine a tunnel.  It can be as long as you want in imaginary space but it has to have a sensible end in real space.  I know that because I pictured doing the exercise with sadness and winding up 50 blocks from where I started.  You can picture someone - if you feel it will help - waiting for you on the other side of the tunnel.  Physically mime opening the door.  Physically walk through the tunnel, feeling the colors and consistency of what is around you.  When you get to the end of the tunnel turn around and close the door.  Now what do you feel?  What color is it?  You can walk through as many tunnels as you like. Always open the door - walk through - turn around and close the door. What is on the other side?  A person I guided in the exercise had the emotion of fear attached to a situation.  Its color was bright red.  When he closed the door on it he felt relief.  The color of his relief was rosy white. Rosy.  Red can be hot like fire or full of softeness and beauty like a rose.  After he walked through the rosy white feeling of relief tunnel he was smiling. If you are experiencing an emotion that makes you feel good you can anchor it by touching a part of your body - or touching the tip of your thumb and your forefinger together.  Creating an anchor gives you a way to call back a feeling.  Someone touched their heart.  If I am feeling safe and cosy I can touch my heart.  I touch my heart and recall instantly those feelings of safety and cosiness no matter where I am.

There is also what is called the "Circle of Excellence" - which I like to call the magic circle.  Picture a circle on the floor big enough to step into. Think of a feeling or a skill - again give it a color and a size - it could be a cloud around you - or anything you want.  When you have a picture of it - step into the circle.  Feel it all around you and through you.  Breathe it in.  You can do something call a roll up which is simply touching your toes (or getting as close as possible as you can) and rolling your body up so that what you have chosen to experience in the circle rolls up and covers every inch of you.  When you are feeling that completely, step out of the circle.  People rarely want to step out.  If you have done it well - you feel so good you want to stay.  You have to step out so that you can repeat the exercise - and learn that the circle can be recreated for you any time - any place.  No one even has to know what you are doing.  You could be in the mall or at a family gathering.  If you have a circle of comfort and you know what it feels like - picture it and step into if something uncomfortable occurs.  It will be your secret.  To everyone else it will look like you have only moved over a little.

All of these things require movement.  They repattern your brain.  It doesn't mean that miraculously your grief is gone.  There are NLP practitioners that would disagree with me.  They would say that you can, in fact, change your belief system and transform your grief completely.  For me, I am happy being sad that Artie is dead.  I don't want to give up my sadness.  It tells me how much I love him, how grateful I am for that love, how much I miss him.  It helps me have compassion for others.  However, these things help me shift the balance so  my tired, stuck, desperate me is less powerful  and my creative, happy, productive me shows up more often.. 

One of the images I came up with this weekend is a baby kangaroo in its mommy kangaroo's pouch.  I like being all snuggled in there, not having to face life without Artie.  Instead of having a cheat day I now call it a pouch day.  One day a week I can have a pouch day where I don't have to do anything except hide away.  A lot of times without Artie the world hurts.  On the other hand someone this weekend said I was amazing and the person they said it to agreed with them.  I'm glad I was there for that.  The teacher asked me if I was complete (meaning if I had completed the exercise).  I said, "Yes."  It was a metaphor.  Somehow, even with Artie no longer alive, for the first time I am beginning to feel complete in myself.  When it all dissolves, as it does and will - I can have pouch day - but also remember how to peek my head out of the pouch - and then jump out and go hopping off.

This weekend my mind stretched in a lot of new directions.  Today at exercise my body stretched in a lot of new directions.  Won't say I'm not sore.  I definitely took a nap!  However, we are all doing it.  We are all breathing.  We are being alive.  Stretch.  Each stretch extends our reach.  I know we can do it together. xo