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Archive for January, 2011

One Step At A Time

My hiking trip to the Swiss Alps was an extremely meaningful adventure.

It was my 50th birthday present to me and my husband.  But much more important, it represented my daughter’s survival.  It actually symbolized all the steps she took in rebuilding her life.

I had come across an article on a Swiss Alps hiking trip at the time that my daughter, Nava, was very ill.  It seemed like a nice pipe dream then, not knowing what the future would hold.  I cut out the article and filed it away in my night-table. I would often see it and dream that maybe one day, just maybe…   

Nava was on a ventilator in a drug-induced coma for 3 months.  When she had pulled through the worst of it and was stable enough, she was transferred to a rehab hospital where she remained for the next 9 months.  Had I known in advance how long she’d be on a respirator and then how long she’d be in rehab, I would’ve said, “I can’t do this; there’s no way I can get through and wake up to this day after day.  Wake me up when it’s over.”

But as life has it, we don’t know the future and in this regard it was a blessing. Not knowing how long it would be, allowed me to take one day at a time.  I had no other choice.   Somehow you wake up in the morning and almost robot-like put one foot in front of the other and go through the motions of living with the horrific pain of seeing your child teetering on the brink of life and death.

Miraculously, her life was spared.  Then began the arduous uphill climb to regain her functioning abilities – from breathing on her own to swallowing, from lifting a finger to walking.  And for me, it meant waking up every morning to begin another 12 hour day by my daughter’s side encouraging and prodding her every step of the way.  Many times it required tough love to push her despite and beyond the pain.  

Finally, one day after a complete cycle of seasons, we spoke of finally going home. 

A couple of summers later as our mid-life birthdays were upon us, our lives having resumed some semblance of normalcy, my husband and I were able to fulfill our  (I really should say “my”)  dream trip.

Every step I took on those hikes in the magnificent Swiss mountains was a step in appreciation of life – the awesomeness and fragility of life.  Every one of my senses was attuned to the natural beauty around me.  All was a gift – breathing the air, walking the trails, smelling the flowers, and of course struggling to make the arduous climb upward.  If Nava could do it and so much more, of course I could do this. She was my role model for living.   And every time it felt hard and I had to stop to catch my breath and rest a bit before continuing along these 8 mile up and downhill trails, I thought of her torturous fight to reclaim her life and relearn all her functions,  one step and one muscle  at a time.

If I would’ve looked to the top of the mountains, I would’ve said, “I can’t do this, I can’t make it up there.”  As I had done in the hospital with Nava, I focused on the moment and put one foot in front of the other and kept on going.  One step at a time.

Beginning steps to get through a difficult journey:

  1. Focus on the moment – keeps you on task; and sometimes the future is just too hard to fathom
  2. One step at a time – slow and steady,  along with patience,  adds up to a lot
  3. Breathe – it keeps you grounded, present and calmer
  4. Appreciate – there’s always something, even during the hardest times
  5. Hold onto a dream – it just might actualize

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Imperfection

I dropped my bags, pulled open the curtains and saw this jaw-dropping view.  I quickly snapped a picture.  Little did I know that this photo- a view from our room in Santorini –  would go places.   To my home page of my website, my business cards, my internet  logo. 

In my excitement to capture the awesomeness of this movie view, I chopped off the top of the arch.  In the perfection of the scene, I created an imperfection.   And as the photo guy said when I went to have it blown up to poster size, “I could touch it up and create a top piece of the arch, but I would leave it alone.  It’s got character.”

And so it is and I love it. 

My daughter, Nava, survived a year-long medical crisis.  Miraculously, she came through it all intact; after a tremendous amount of excruciatingly hard work.   She got her life back and has been able to partake in it as before.   A miraculous return of perfection.

By her throat is a small round indentation.  A  tracheostomy tube  left it’s mark. Although it is not as severe as it was eight years ago, it retains it’s presence as a reminder of:

Fragility of life, survival, miracles, blessings, appreciation, gratitude, awesomeness.

When a doctor recommended that the “hole” be covered over with a bit of plastic surgery and therefore nobody would ever be able to tell she had had a tracheotomy, I immediately said no.  She would have no elective surgery after surviving so much horror.   And besides, as Catherine Zeta Jones once said of her trach mark, “I wear it as a badge of courage”.  This is certainly Nava’s badge; and this imperfection  shows  character.

And so it is and I love it.

Can you embrace your imperfections?    Can you still see the beauty beyond?

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Launch Giveaway

I’m excited to let you all know that I’ve just started my blog.  If you haven’t already seen them, read my first post titled, A Good Death and my second post, Life’s Reminder.  And don’t forget to read more  about my purpose in writing this blog.

In honor of launching my new blog, I’m going to give away three free coaching sessions to new subscribers.  My coaching focuses on people who are working to overcome adversity or challenges.  Read more about my coaching here and then enter to win!  To enter:

1. Subscribe to the blog by email (on the right in the sidebar).

2. Comment below

You can enter until midnight EST on Saturday, January 29th.

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Life’s Reminder

 

Death waves its hand in my face.  It’s a reminder, a pointer – “are you living well while you can?”

Three weeks ago, I eulogized my father.  Today I listened to eulogies of a friend’s mother at her funeral and burial.   

I have to admit, I like hearing eulogies.  I like hearing the mark people make, the impact they have, the legacy they leave.  It spurs me on and puts me back on track towards pursuing a life of meaning and goodness, appreciation and gratitude.  It makes me think once again of the big things, the important things, and of not getting bogged down in the petty negativities that we all succumb to so easily and so often.        

 It makes me check in with myself, with my life, to see if I’m living it to my satisfaction.

 We’re all going to be in that box at some point (or as ashes), so are we making the most of our lives?  Are we at least attempting to live the life we want?  Death can move us towards living a better life.  While we’re standing upright, it behooves us to make it good.

There’s a wonderful poem called The Dashwww.thedashmovie.com   (Linda Ellis, 1996)

How do you spend your dash – the time between your birth and death?  Are you making it as good as  possible ?

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A Good Death

A life until the ripe old age of 98;  a death, peacefully during his mid-day nap when G-d decided  it was time to come for his soul. 

My father died  the best way possible. No pain, no suffering, and with his mind all there.  The way we all would like to go when it’s our time.  A gift and a blessing.

Bill Winkler, or Wink, as I discovered he was called by some, never thought of himself as old.  “Are you old yet?”  I asked at his more recent birthdays; “No, not yet.”   “Maybe when you reach 100, hopefully?” to which he replied, “We’ll see then.”

Lessons of a “young” 98 year old: 

1.  Learning  and  doing.     My dad took classes at the local college until he was 90.  And when I argued with him to give up his car at 88, he took buses to college.   He was truly a life-long learner. 

When he took me out for my childhood Sunday visitations (my parents were divorced), we did fun  activities.   From bike-riding in Central Park to row-boating to ice skating all over the city; inclement weather found us in museums and the car and boat shows at the Coliseum.  Rarely did we sit in front of a movie screen. 

I carried this into my parenting days with my children where Sundays were always a fun day.  Laundry, errands,  and shopping were fit into the cracks of the week,  as opposed to making them a day.

2.  Walking.    My dad walked his whole life.   As a little girl, I could never keep up with him and I remember my side hurting from trying.  Even after getting his first and only car when he was 65 – a blue Chevy Nova- he still walked a lot.   At 91 he was  taking the subway to the railroad out to Long Beach to walk the 4 1/2 mile round-trip boardwalk, until a mild stroke at 92 curtailed this activity. 

His walking continued with the aid of a walker all over the neighborhood to the local stores, falling fairly often but continuing on after the bruises healed.  Feisty and independent, he refused help.

I’ve been endowed with the walking gene.  It is a part of my daily life as well as a coping tool used to get through many a hard time.  And I can actually say it is hard to walk slow for an inherently fast walker.

3.  Healthy eating.    My dad ate healthy long before it became in vogue.   As a little girl, I didn’t like to go out to eat with him because I was embarrassed by all the instructions to the waiter –“hold the margarine, the syrup, grill it, bake it.”

Lo and behold, I now eat his way.  My original impetus in converting a few years ago was digestive issues.  It is now my way of life.      

4.  No big deal.   My dad was the antithesis of a complainer.  He didn’t have a “kvetch” bone in his body.  Go for a 12 hour plane ride at age 90 and 92 to meet his 2 great-grandsons at their birth – no big deal, “I’ll walk around the plane so my legs don’t get stiff.”   He had basil cells removed, sometimes a 6 hour ordeal at the doctor’s office scraping until they came out clean; he’d come back saying, “I’m fine, a little discomfort but no big deal.” 

Perhaps that is why I don’t have much tolerance for “kvetches”.

Let’s celebrate and take in the Good.

What lessons have you incorporated from a significant person in your life?

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