Monday, November 24, 2014

Holiday of Compassion

 A Step Further 

This holiday season, let’s take the things we typically complain about and flip them around. For example, where I live, the traffic is awful. It has taken me as much as an hour and a half to go twelve miles from home to work during rush hour. Beating the traffic has become a personal mission. Today, instead of my usual complaining, I have chosen to be thankful for my trusty-old Toyota, and live where the standard of living generally supports my ability to keep my car going. 

Maybe each of us can find that one daily challenge and turn it around to a place of gratitude even if only for a short time - just to see if you can. OK, you are now ready for the next step.

I would like us to give someone else a reason to be thankful. It can be anyone - a friend or colleague whose family is not close and they need someone to share the holiday with. It could be providing a meal for someone without the means or volunteering for a cause you resonate with. And, remember the little things are just as important– smile at your neighbor, open a door for someone needing a hand, give up your seat on the metro or whatever you feel motivated to do that gives another person a reason to be thankful.

Sharing a compassionate act with another creates meaning not only for the lives you touch, but for you. It makes sense to do this. It’s good for you, good for others and good for the world. 

...In fact, I believe acts of compassion are an integral part of creating a better world for everyone. 

I am thankful for each one of you who has taken the time to read my blog. Happy Holidays.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Freedom from Fear

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Would you give yourself permission to live? What would that look like?

The fear from within is the most persistent, pervasive and worst enemy we each battle. It translates into a fear of life. It compromises our choices and limits our perspectives sometimes without our even knowing it.

I'm not talking about fear of heights or of a tiger lurking to attack. The fears I speak of may begin innocently by watching our role models limit their choices that slowly compromise their ability to live more expansively and more authentically. 

As a result of this conditioning, we may choose careers that are safe, or marry for fear of being alone. For any variety of fears - of not fitting in, of succeeding, of failing, of commitment to ourselves and others, to our dreams and life's passions, we have defined our lives through fear. By modeling our role model’s choices, we have followed the same path.

The Decision

One example was my smart and creative college roommate. She was a brilliant and talented musician, but chose a career in IT simply because her family was financially well off and viewed that as the field that ensured the success and security they envisioned for their daughter.

I’m not saying IT isn’t a career for the creatively intelligent or a viable choice, but I believe she would have made another choice if fear wasn’t a factor. In order to justify her choice, with each example of fear playing out in a negative scenario of a musician who failed, or a starving young pianist waiting tables, she built her case against following her heart. This justification strengthened her fear and kept her pattern of beliefs from being challenged.

My former roommate, Annette, disappeared behind a veil of fear. Although her parents thought they were doing their best, she was living their fears. She further succumbed to society’s dictates of the type of husband to have, car to drive and house to live in suitable for an IT professional living an upper-middle class life style. My once vibrant, outspoken and richly alive roommate had become afraid of not fitting in.

In also keeping with her upper-middle class life, Annette’s self-alienation led to depression. Last I heard, she had prescriptions for tranquilizers, sleeping pills and anti-depressants not uncommonly used in our world of fear. She chose out of fear and lived in fear.


We all choose out of fear in some way or another at different times. We do live in a scary world. Nothing is certain and, in the end, we all suffer the same fate. Our existence is finite; but wouldn’t it be better to live fully knowing the end result?

What will you do with the time between now and then? Will you live fearfully? Will you create a prison of fear? OR will you create an authentic life of meaning?

You have free will and the ability to not be held captive by fear. It truly is a choice. I am not promoting recklessness or harmful living. Quite the opposite, I’m promoting a life of meaning. One of responsibility to yourself and your satisfaction with life.

Of course, we all must respect the boundaries of society, and those of our loved ones. However, those boundaries need not choke the most fundamental human right from us– a life of meaning.

Your Path

Your life is a blank canvas on which to paint your path. You need to confront questions of,  "Now what?" since your life will now be based on your choices.


If you don’t know where to begin, start small. Build your confidence by making small choices such as what do you want for dinner. I mean really want. 

Next, pay attention to how you feel when you go to the job you don’t like or find just so-so, compared to when you do something that transports you to a place where you find joy and meaning. Start planning from there.

It's not unreasonable to build the life you want while working to phase out the one you have. It takes courage and time to break the fearful patterns which are familiar. The unfamiliar feels like stepping off a cliff into a free fall, but pay attention to the feeling of liberation that accompanies your step out into the void and focus on that until you are able to get your feet back on solid ground.

We all battle fear. I am hoping more and more of us don’t allow fear to dictate choices that lock us into a prison of our own making, and experience the freedom we get living a life where fear does not have the final say in our choices.

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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Clover's Heart

Bestest Friend  

I rushed home after work to see my best friend. After placing my bag and jacket on the living room chair, I made my way to the bedroom where she lay sleeping in her little fleece bed. I slowly and gently reached out my hand to touch her back to let her know I was home. She opened her eyes, lifted her head as she struggled to arrange her 17 year old body into an upright greeting posture.

My beautiful Clover - almost blind, deaf with severe arthritis in both hind legs and balance challenges was doing well for someone in her hundreds, I told myself.

I carefully lifted my friend into an embrace. The kind of embrace you give a loved one whose time was running out. An embrace to express my gratitude for one more day with my dear, dear little friend, my most loyal companion, my dog.


It seems like yesterday I had brought home this goofy, awkward puppy who stuck to my heels and sat in her water bowl. I never imagined the bond that would grow with this timid, odd, tiny creature.

I didn’t fall in love with Clover right away. She was attached to me like glue where ever I was and where ever I went. Although I attempted to be careful, I inevitably stepped on her due to her constant proximity to my feet. She woke me at all hours of the night, and just didn’t seem to get the hang of things I thought a dog should. For example, she never could climb stairs. After tripping and falling down first, second or third steps, Clover resigned herself to sit on the first step and refused to go further. That is, unless I carried her.

For more than a year I tried teaching her to climb stairs. I gave up. I guess clumsy defined Clover best when it came to jumping or climbing. She could jump up on furniture with 60% success. The remainder of her attempts resulted in an ungraceful thud leaving her looking up at me with a question mark in her eyes. For the rest of her years,  I provided all transportation up high and low stairs. I couldn't bear to allow my friend to lose her footing and go toppling down.

I came to accept Clover’s limited eye-paw coordination. I adapted to the glue-like behavior and she stopped sitting in her water bowl. She made up for any shortcomings by looking at me with more love than I felt I deserved. She kept me company through college, deaths, relationship break-ups and much, much more. That little dog did not let me down once in 17 years.

Gentle and True

Clover never warmed-up to other dogs. Quite by accident, however, I discovered she liked rabbits. She met my friend’s bunny and they took to one another right away. Clover cared for the bunny as if he were her own puppy. She licked him, slept near him and watched him as a mother would a toddler. The bunny felt no fear in her presence as she only showed him kindness. From then on, Clover had bunny companions. I adopted five rescue rabbits over the course of her life. Each bunny adored her.

Even more than her kindness to her floppy-eared friends was her loyalty to me. Clover tolerated other people in my life, but never gave her heart to anyone else. Just as she kept a watchful eye on her rabbit companions, she did me. When I dated a man who treated me unkindly, she placed her body between he and I with her back to him each time he came near. She saw him for what he was. I came to realize what she knew all along and sent him on his way.

Thank You

At 17, each day with my little lady was a gift. Each day was an opportunity to be with a friend I had grown to love with my whole heart. One summer day in her 17th year, Clover was standing next to my bed in the morning with her eyes fluttering while struggling to stay balanced. It appeared I was observing a stroke in progress. Whatever it was left her with a permanent head tilt and difficulty navigating even the shortest of distances. 

I debated putting her down then, but I read up on what ended up being diagnosed as Vestibular Disease. People with dogs with this wrote encouraging stories of at least partial recoveries. Clover’s health did improve for a time and she could still go for slow walks and snuggle - that is, until September. It was then she began to intermittently refuse food and was losing weight she couldn't afford to lose.

I knew it was time. I made the appointment with her vet for the next morning. That night, I held my dear friend near. Although she couldn’t hear me, I stroked her soft coat and repeated over and over how much I loved her and thanked her for always being there, for being so kind to me and the bunnies and helping me through the hardest challenges of my life. I kissed the soft fur on top of her head and drifted in and out of sleep until daylight - the day I would say goodbye to the kindest soul I have ever known. My beautiful Clover.