Archive for July, 2011

Ever need that solitary boost – when you’re feeling a bit down or quietly introspective or just need to recharge yourself?

How do you soothe your soul? What brings you back to a calmer state, a feeling of well-being, of security and warmth?

5 Ways to soothe your soul:

1.  Sit by the ocean watching and listening to the waves. Feel the breeze, smell the salt, touch the velvety sand. All our senses come alive.

One of my favorite things to do on a summer evening, (after the official lifeguard hours are over) is to climb up onto the lifeguard chair and look out into the huge expanse of water, watching darkness take over. I am swept to another place as total relaxation enters into my body. My thought is always, how the world is so beyond us- in expanse, in depth, in scope, in understanding.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.”  EE.Cummings

2.  Sit with a fun mug of tea, coffee or hot chocolate- whatever you fancy. Embrace the mug and feel its warmth. Let it take care of you. It can be a pleasurable activity in its own right when we drink it mindfully.

Hot chocolate is my preference with lots of foam served in a big fat mug; the hotter the better. When I’m not in the mood for chocolate (a rarity) then tea is the drink of nurturance. And TJMaxx is the place for those funky mugs.

If you are cold, tea will warm you; If you are too heated, it will cool you; If you are depressed, it will cheer you; If you are excited, it will calm you.” Gladstone (1865) Victorian British Prime Minister

 3.  Light a scented candle and climb into your cozy spot with a good   book. Take in the smell and take in the words. It can transport you.

“Reading was my escape and my comfort, my consolation, my stimulant of choice: reading for the pure pleasure of it, for the beautiful stillness that surrounds you when you hear an author’s words reverberating in your head.” Paul Auster (The Brooklyn Follies)

4. Turn on music of your liking. Let it move you and take you towards a state of relaxation and calmness or towards moving to its rhythm. Music can get inside us if we let it and really move our ‘kishkes’ (insides)

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Red Auerbach

5.  Bring forth a memory – one that makes you feel good inside. Sit with the feeling that it evokes. Bask in it. Memories are our treasure chest. We keep them forever with us inside and call upon them when needed.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss


What can you add to this? How do you nurture yourself?

Thank you for reading.


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My husband and I just returned from our activity-filled vacation week to New Mexico.  When we saw our zebra-like suitcase appear on the baggage carousel we got excited.   

It brings to mind our luggage-free vacation a couple of years ago.  Apparently our suitcase had done some good traveling throughout Italy while we spent our 10 days hiking the Dolomites and traveling around without it.  Our stand-out funky suitcase never reached us; it went lost.

How did we have a good vacation without luggage?

Self-talk message #1 –   Make the decision to have a good vacation anyway.  Lost luggage was not going to ruin that long awaited dream trip.  It creates some inconveniences like spending time shopping for those few essential items and some articles of clothing, but it cannot take away the joy of being away unless we allow it to. 

We were in Venice.  We focused on the little bridge by our hotel that beckoned to us, “come explore,” it seemed to say.  And so with our hiking shoes which we wore on the plane and our airplane clothes which had dried overnight on our porch, we set out walking the romantic city of canals. 

Self-talk message #2 –   They are really only Things (that were in our suitcase).  As the saying goes, “the most important things in life are not things.”  Our health and attitude were our cherished commodities, and our cameras (which were in our carry-on) and that’s what we kept telling ourselves and being grateful for.  The old, ‘it could’ve been worse’ line of thinking definitely came in handy.   And of course a sense of  humor about it all, mostly attributed to my husband, Alan.   

Late nights were spent blow-drying our alternate pairs of socks and underwear so they’d be ready for our next day’s adventure.  At $12 a pop, I figured washing more often wasn’t a bad option.  

I quickly learned not to look at myself too closely in the mirror.  Between the hot sun, ice pellets during snow storms high up in the Dolomite mountains, intermittent rains, and the saunas at the beautiful hotels, my face got its share of natural ingredients to keep it fresh.   Who cared about make-up now.  As long as I could hike through those mountain trails without my sticks, I was happy.    

Self-talk message #3 –   Compartmentalize the aggravation.   We saved the phone calls to the airlines, insurance company, and other business dealings, to the late afternoon after our day’s outing.  Again, the decision that this was not going to interfere with our day’s fun, was consciously played out.  We all know the feeling of being put on hold indefinitely and never getting to speak to a live person, so at some point we decided to deal with all of this once we were back home.

Self-talk message #4 –   When it’s out of our control, let it go.   After a few days of being promised our luggage but to no avail, we let go of our hopes of still getting it while away.  We stopped calling and inquiring since that only caused frustration.  We were doing fine and accepted that we’d finish out our 10 days without our ‘stuff’. 

Lessons Learned:

Focus on what truly matters.  For us it was being able to do what we loved – traveling and hiking in a gorgeous country.   Lost luggage didn’t take that away.

Appreciate your partner for being different from you.  My husband is certainly the more easy-going one. His motto is:  no big deal.    This time it really paid off.    

As per Richard Carlson, “don’t sweat the small stuff”.    We tried to follow those words and can honestly say we had a great time. 

And we felt proud of ourselves for being able to enjoy ourselves and have a good vacation (and a most memorable one), despite the inconvenience.    

Postscript – five days after arriving home, our suitcase was delivered to our house, safe and sound.  It too had a memorable trip; as the tags displayed – Milan, Rome and Venice.   Wrong order for our itinerary.

How do you handle aggravations so they don’t take over and ruin the bigger picture?


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Let’s reflect on some basic ways of reaching out and providing support to a friend, family member, or even acquaintance who is going through a hard time. 

We tend to feel alone with our troubles.  We feel nobody else knows what we’re going through.  This feeling of isolation further adds to the despair of the problem itself.   We want to be cared about, thought about and understood even more so during a time of need. 

Providing emotional support as well as concrete help, are crucial in ameliorating some of the loneliness we feel when going through trying times.    

How can we be of help?

  • Be a Good listener. 
  • Call to check in periodically despite the lack of a return call.  A thoughtful message and good wishes goes a long way.
  • Cook or bake a comfort-food dish or something you know the person really likes. 
  • Be proactive in offering help; don’t wait to be asked.  “How can I help you; what do you need or want.” 
  • Send a card with a personal note expressing the person’s good qualities and what you value in them.   We all need to hear it sometimes, especially during a low period. 
  • Visit  (unless the person wants to be alone). 
  • Get others involved in helping.
  • Look for ways to take over some of the extraneous responsibilities.
  • Anticipate the person’s needs (if you know them well enough)  and see how you can do something to meet it.
  • Be there, even if there’s nothing you can do.  In our feeling helpless to change the situation, our presence does matter.  

For many, it is very hard to ask for help. 

What can you add to the above list so we can {proactively}  be there for someone in need?   Please share in your comments below.

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“I’ve reached a place where I can say that grief is not about recovery or resolution or being fully healed.  It’s about living without someone, but still embracing life.”

I am pleased to introduce Natalie Taylor, a young woman who has unfortunately learned about the fragility of life way too early – at the beginning of her married life.   While pregnant with her first child, Natalie’s husband, Josh, died suddenly in a tragic carveboarding (skateboarding)  accident.    

Ms. Taylor’s book, Signs of Life, is her powerfully written memoir in a very down-to-earth style, of her journey through sadness and joy, grief and hope, as she finds the strength and courage to rebuild her life with her son, Kai.

What personal qualities have helped you carry on and move forward in a positive direction?

One thing was that my husband was so excited about life and he was just really enthusiastic and spontaneous and lived in the moment.  And after he passed away I was so sad all the time, and after a while I realized that this is not how he would want me to live.  So I tried to channel his energy of appreciating even the smallest opportunities we get.  I tried to force myself to appreciate the moment, not take for granted the time I have with my son. 

The other thing is that my family has done a really good job of always asserting throughout my childhood this idea of work ethic which sounds really weird next to grief.  It doesn’t matter if you have to go to plan B, you go to plan B.  You do whatever you have to do to keep going, to survive, to get your head in the right place.  No matter what I’ve ever participated in, whether I played soccer or was on a team or taking graduate courses, I always told myself, maybe I’m not the smartest person in the room or on the field, or maybe I’m not the most talented, but I can always be the person who works the hardest.  I feel like I really had to do a lot of work with grieving.  I made myself go to a psychologist; I made myself write even when I didn’t want to.  All of those things paid off; not immediately because nothing  pays off immediately.  But I think over time they were very helpful. 

Did you go through a period of self-pity?  If so, what helped lift you out of it?

It was never a prolonged period, but I definitely felt sorry for myself.  Growing up, my mom had this slogan, “get out of the pity pool”.  If something didn’t go our way, she’d say, “you have to get out of the pity pool.”  I tried to keep that in mind.  I do think the pity pool is never a popular place; nobody wants to be there with you.  So I tried to stay out of it.  I never vocalized my self-pity.  I would think about it or write about it.  But I would never call anyone and say “I feel sorry for myself”.  I would get frustrated and go for a walk or listen to a radio show or try to get my mind off of myself because I knew that wasn’t a good place to be.  But sometimes I had to come to terms with thoughts like, ‘you guys, or X family has everything and I have nothing I wanted and isn’t that horrible.’ 

Was there a specific moment or epiphany that helped guide you to a better place mentally and psychologically? Or did it evolve?

It was like collecting pebbles.  One thing would happen and I’d put it in my bag and feel, ‘all right’.  And I’d just find more and more moments that were encouraging.  For example, the first night I spent alone in my house, which was pretty early on, I woke up the next morning and said, I’m O.K. I did it; nothing happened, the world didn’t come to an end.  And that was encouraging, especially because I was not a very independent person before all this.  Any milestone I hit, like figuring out how to hang pictures with a hammer or drive my son up north by myself was encouraging.   I completed a triathalon in Aug. 2008,  just over a year after losing Josh.  It was a huge milestone for me.  You know my husband passed away, I was 24 and I felt like, my life is over, I won’t progress after this, I have nothing going for me in the future.  So finishing the triathalon  reminded me of a lot of things:  I am very young and I do have a lot of potential that I don’t know about because I am so young; the future can hold  exciting opportunities for me.

What are your day-to-day coping skills that keep you afloat?

One thing I try to say to myself when I hit a bad patch is this idea that ‘it will pass’.  I won’t feel this way the whole day or the whole week.  So I sort of embrace it and go through it because it will pass.  It’s not that I ignore it.  When I do get sad I remind myself that I’ll be happy again, eventually, or I’ll do something else in the day that will make me happy.  I just know that things change quickly, although with grief they don’t change so quickly.  At this point, 4 years out, my day-to-day attitude is so much more positive than it was 3 or 4 years ago obviously.   When I do bump into things I say to myself, it’s O.K., you’re not going to feel this way forever.

This has also taught me that when good things happen they should be celebrated and shared because you don’t know when the next bad thing will come.  And you never want to say, gosh, I wish we would’ve had dinner together or I wish we would’ve taken the time to go over and say congratulations to that person.  I try to embrace those moments of happiness because they’re really important. 

Even with birthdays or holidays where I would roll my eyes at them, now I say, come on, this is a big deal, you never know who’s last Christmas this will be or how many more of these we have left, so why not make a big deal out of it.

What thoughts propel you forward?

One thought I try to hold onto is the mantra, “wherever I go, there I am”, just to be there and appreciate what’s happening.  That helps me because as a single mom I always feel like I’m juggling plates.  It’s easy to get caught up in the, ‘oh come on we’ve gotta go, hurry, hurry.’   I try to tell myself, wherever I go, I’m there and I have to be 100% there if I want to get anything out of that situation.  It’s so important because when I’m with my students I want to be 100% their teacher, and when I’m with my son I want to be 100% his mom. 

I have a wonderful dad who was very much the disciplinarian.  I feel like I didn’t prepare myself to be the disciplinarian of the equation.  But I think in raising my son I tell myself, people can help me if I need it.  I can call my mom and have her come over and help me balance things out.  Or I can have a friend come over and watch Kai while I get the kitchen clean for the first time all week.  I was so resistant to ask for help because I was such  practical person; it was really hard because I felt like if I ask for help, that means I can’t do it on my own.  There’s nothing wrong with saying, ‘hey, this is really hard, can someone lend me a set of hands for an hour or so.’  So I think I’m good at asking for help and I think I’m good at weighing when I’m overwhelmed; and I don’t have to be a hero everyday.   People are so happy to help me.      

What advice would you give someone going through a difficult time in their life? 

People would tell me all the time that time can help; and I would always say, ‘you can stick time where the sun doesn’t shine.’  But now I cannot say enough that time has changed me in ways that I didn’t anticipate.  I think that’s not an easy answer for anyone and I found it to be an incredibly frustrating answer.  But you have to go through it and time has to pass for serious healing to happen.  I’m even  looking forward to where I’ll be 7 years out, where I’ll be 10 years out because I know I’ll continue to grow and change and time will continue to help me.

The other thing that really helped me was seeing a psychologist early on.  My obstetrician ‘forced’ me to go.  That was huge.  I would have never gone on my own because it’s admitting there’s something wrong with you which is a stupid stigma we still have.  And that was really helpful in ways I could never have imagined.

Another thing I did was once I had my son I started to adopt exercise into my daily regimen; and that just makes me happier in general.  That was huge for me.

I signed up for a group called Team in Training which raises money for the leukemia/lymphoma society.  To do something for someone else  was very helpful for me because I met people who had leukemia/ cancer and it was good for me to meet people, not just to share stories but also to help me do a better job of appreciating my health and my son’s.  Just helping people in general is helpful. 

Grief can be a really egocentric emotion.  There’s nothing right or wrong about that, it’s just how it is.  Helping others made me get outside of myself and learn there’s a lot of other pain and suffering happening in the world. 

I’m 28 – I felt really old for awhile but now I feel pretty young again, so that’s good.

 Thank you for reading.  Comments are most welcome as is Subscribing to Rebuild Your Life Coach blog.


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